Lance Johnson remembers sitting on the bench as an assistant coach with the Orchard View varsity basketball team as the Cardinals did battle with Johnson’s alma matter, Spring Lake.
To make matters worse, Johnson’s younger brother, Austin, was a starting forward for the Lakers.
“It was extremely hard being on the bench coaching against Spring Lake, against my brother,” Lance Johnson said.
This year, Johnson is coaching at Spring Lake. It took a perfect storm to get Johnson from Orchard View to Spring Lake, and he’s thrilled that storm hit when it did.
“The last two years, I was the head JV coach at Orchard View,” said the 2009 Spring Lake graduate. “Then a lot of things happened at once. I’m in my last year of college, and this semester, I was a teacher assistant with (Lakers’ varsity basketball coach) Bill (Core).
“Then I had a seminar on Thursday’s, so I couldn’t coach JV at Orchard View, and coach (John) Naemitz couldn’t do varsity this year, so I was able to step in. I’m excited to come back.”
Now Johnson is treated to watching his little brother — who is torching the opposition to the tune of around 25 points per game this winter — every night.
“It’s great to get to watch him play,” Lance said. “Before, I had to watch tapes of his games.”
Lance tries to treat Austin like any of the other 10 players on the Lakers’ roster. In fact, he often lets Core concentrate on Austin and spends his time watching the rest of the team.
But he’s not above giving his little brother a few pointers, and to his credit, Austin is a willing pupil.
“It’s cool,” said Austin, a senior for the Lakers. “He can just tell me if I’m doing something wrong, fading on my jumper or not going strong enough.
“I was excited to have him come here. I guess he just treats me like one of the guys.”
That’s not always the easiest thing to do, especially considering the two brothers still live under the same roof.
But Lance said the two have always had a good relationship, and that hasn’t changed.
"We live together, but it’s not awkward. That’s always the way it’s been, with us doing basketball together,” Lance said.
Lance also said that he utilized several things he learned during his basketball career to help out Austin.
“We were both 6-foot-2 in the seventh grade,” Lance said. “I was always a post player, but we knew Austin wasn’t going to grown any more, so instead, we got him on the perimeter. He’s much more skilled, much more versatile, than I ever was.”
Core said Lance Johnson has been an invaluable addition to the Lakers’ basketball family.
“For Lance to be able to come back to his old school has been great,” Bill said. “He and I had a good relationship when he was a player, then for him to work with me as a phased teacher in the mornings was wonderful. The kids just loved him.
“Lance did all our fall player workouts, so he was here two days a week at 6 a.m. He’s just a basketball junkie. It’s been a lot of fun to have him around.”
Core said his primary concern was whether having Lance on the bench would bother Austin.
“That’s always my main concern when there’s family involved is with the player, but he was absolutely fine with it,” Core said. “Lance is respected by the older kids because of his game, his knowledge, his passion. He’s still young enough where he can get out there with the kids and show him what we’re trying to do.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to have him around.”
Lance has had the good fortune of joining the Lakers in time for what could be one of their best seasons in years. Spring Lake is off to a 5-1 start to the season, including last Friday’s victory over rival Grand Haven.