Through thick and thin times at his alma mater, Kenny Johnson has been at fixture at Cuyahoga Falls.
Now the longtime Falls boys basketball coach will have a chance to steer the ship of Black Tiger athletics.
Johnson has been named the new Cuyahoga Falls athletic director by superintendent Dr. Todd Nichols. Nichols said he will recommend that Johnson’s new position be ratified at the next Board of Education meeting Aug. 21.
A 1996 graduate of Cuyahoga Falls, Johnson said he’s proud to take over Falls athletics, even if the opportunity to take the new position materialized quickly.
"It’s always something that I wanted to get into," Johnson said. "It’s a bit of a shock to the system, but it’s good. This would have been the only place that I would have taken the athletic director position.
"It’s easy to say you’re a Falls guy, but I truly am. This is where I’ve always wanted to be at teaching, coaching and now this position. The hardest part for me is telling those basketball kids that I’m not coaching them anymore."
Johnson said he spoke to the basketball team Thursday after learning he would get the athletic director’s job.
Nichols said selecting Johnson for the job was easy.
"Kenny bleeds black and gold," Nichols said. "He’s been with us in some capacity for 21 years. He’s been with us as a coach, a group director and a teacher. Of course he’s a Falls grad. He is uniquely positioned to be a strong public relations ambassador for our athletic programs."
Johnson takes over for former AD Tom DiFrancesco, who was promoted to associate principal at Cuyahoga Falls High School at the Board’s meeting last Wednesday. According to Nichols, DiFrancesco moves into the position vacated by former assistant principal Ramsey Inman, who decided to move to the assistant principal position at Bay Village Bay High School in July.
DiFrancesco said at the meeting he was excited by the opportunity to become one of the unit principals.
"It's a good change of pace, and it's what I've been looking for," he said. "I've been looking to get into administration more, on the education side. It's a welcome change."
Nichols said Johnson will be offered a two-year contact as Falls’ athletic director, $74,378 a year. In his previous role as a health teacher at Roberts Middle School, Johnson earned $62,207 a year, along with a $9,443 a year supplemental contract as head boys basketball coach.
Johnson graduated from the University of Akron in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in education and earned a master’s degree in supervision from American Public University in 2013.
Johnson said he sees his new job as "almost a public service position" and notes to plans to be a big part of Cuyahoga Falls levy push this fall.
"I think the biggest thing is just, get out there and communicate with people," Johnson said.
While noting wins and losses are not the measure of success for his job, Johnson said he would like to help build up Falls programs that have struggled recently.
"We do have to build our youth programs," Johnson said. "We have to build a good foundation. We have to really focus on the youth and try to keep our kids here."
One of Johnson’s first jobs as athletic director will be to select his replacement as head boys basketball coach. Johnson said the position has been posted and he hopes to begin the interview process next week.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO