Don Johnson, a UCLA All-American under coach John Wooden who went on to become one of the winningest coaches in California community college history at Cypress College, died Wednesday in Laguna Niguel. A cause of death was not immediately available for Johnson, who was 88.
After spending two seasons at Fullerton College, Johnson propelled the Bruins to the 1951 Pacific Coast Conference Southern Division title and the 1952 PCC championship, leading the team in rebounding both seasons. Once described as one of the best cutters Wooden had coached, Johnson was a consensus All-American in 1952 and averaged 9.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in his two seasons at UCLA.
After his graduation, Johnson spent more than a decade coaching Pico Rivera El Rancho High before starting the program at Cypress College in 1966 and guiding the Chargers to two state titles and seven conference championships. Among the players Johnson coached were Mark Eaton and Swen Nater, both of whom played in the NBA.
Johnson’s teams won 20 or more games in 17 seasons. At the time of his retirement in 1994, Johnson’s 588 victories were the most in California community college history; he currently ranks fourth on the state’s all-time list.
“My greatest source of satisfaction has been dealing with the good kids who cared about our program,” Johnson told The Times shortly before his retirement. “I’m going to reflect on all those kids who cared enough to become better players and better people.”
Cypress named its home court in his honor in 2009, calling it “Don Johnson Court.” UCLA inducted Johnson into its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013 and honored him with a moment of silence before its game against Colorado on Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion.