#PeopleOfPeace: Kelly Johnson Says Goodbye to WPU
That line echoed as William Peace University Athletic Director and Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Kelly Johnson, stood at mid-court in the Hermann Center – a gym he helped renovate and build. He soaked in the moment as it would be one of the last he stood on the WPU court. After more than a dozen years of dedicated service, the long-time AD announced he was leaving the University in March.
In talking with Johnson for about an hour, which isn’t a hard thing to do if you’ve ever met the avid Duke fan, the 61-year-old reiterated that family time was an important factor in making the decision to leave the Pacer program and head back to his native town of Kinston, NC.
“I’m looking forward to heading back home and spending time with family,” Johnson said, as he looked around his office, showing off pictures of his grandson, Fitz, who’s set to turn two in September. “People forget that I turned AD very quickly in my career, so I had very little time to coach. I really look forward to just being a coach again.”
And coach again, he will – at Arendell Parrott Academy in his hometown, where Johnson led the Patriots as varsity boys’ coach from 1996 to 2004, racking up 124 wins, three straight conference titles, and making the NCISAA semifinals three times, with a state championship appearance in 2001.
“I’m going to miss the relationship with my players the most.”
During his 12 years at Peace, Johnson helped usher in a new era of Pacer athletics, as WPU transitioned to a coeducational university in 2012-13. He played a vital role overseeing the addition of men’s basketball, cross country, and golf, which were added in 2012-13; baseball and men’s soccer in 2013-14; and men’s tennis, which debuted in 2014-15.
In addition, Johnson spearheaded significant renovations to the Hermann Athletic Center and also founded the University’s first-ever Pacer Club.
On the court, he produced more than 60 USA South All-Conference and Academic All-Conference selections, while making several conference tournament appearances.
“I learned so much working in this community and I will miss Peace as well as Raleigh as I move back home to spend more time with my family and consider what new possibilities exist for me,” Johnson said. “I want to especially thank my current athletic staff. I could not ask for a more dedicated staff and I appreciate all you have done. I wish everyone at Peace much success and thank you for all of your support these past 12 years. I will always consider myself a Peace Pacer.”
Johnson is the proud father of Brooke (a former Pacer Basketball player), Patrick, and Tate – most of whom live back east. He’s also a dedicated husband to Debbie, who after all these years has remained in Kinston while Johnson coached in Raleigh during the work week.
“I joked with my wife and I told her I’ve been on a 12-year sabbatical,” Johnson chuckled. “I’m just excited to move back home and be with family again.”
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