Johnson Returning to Bridgehampton Boys Basketball; White Grateful for Time in Hometown - 27 East

Johnson Returning to Bridgehampton Boys Basketball; White Grateful for Time in Hometown

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Carl Johnson, left, and Ron White at Saturday's celebration at the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. Johnson announced that he is returning to coach the Bridgehampton varsity boys basketball team next season.   MARIANNE BARNETT

Carl Johnson, left, and Ron White at Saturday's celebration at the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. Johnson announced that he is returning to coach the Bridgehampton varsity boys basketball team next season. MARIANNE BARNETT

The featured coaches on Saturday included, from left, Nick Thomas, Richard

The featured coaches on Saturday included, from left, Nick Thomas, Richard "Juni" Wingfield, Carl Johnson, Ron White, Herm Lamison and Ron Gholson. MARIANNE BARNETT

Carl Johnson coaching during his last state title run with the Bees in 2015. He retired not long after in 2017.    CAILIN RILEY

Carl Johnson coaching during his last state title run with the Bees in 2015. He retired not long after in 2017. CAILIN RILEY

Ron White this past season as head coach of the Killer Bees. White took over for Carl Johnson in the 2017-2018 season after Johnson retired.  MARIANNE BARNETT

Ron White this past season as head coach of the Killer Bees. White took over for Carl Johnson in the 2017-2018 season after Johnson retired. MARIANNE BARNETT

Ron White hoists what is the only Long Island Championship in Bridgehampton boys basketball history in 2019.    DREW BUDD

Ron White hoists what is the only Long Island Championship in Bridgehampton boys basketball history in 2019. DREW BUDD

Carll Johnson speaking at the closing of the Beehive in February 2020.    MICHAEL HELLER

Carll Johnson speaking at the closing of the Beehive in February 2020. MICHAEL HELLER

Carl Johnson hoisting the 2015 New York State Championship plaque.    CAILIN RILEY

Carl Johnson hoisting the 2015 New York State Championship plaque. CAILIN RILEY

Drew Budd on Jun 3, 2023

He’s back.

Carl Johnson is returning as head coach of the Bridgehampton varsity boys basketball team, starting with this upcoming 2023-2024 season.

Johnson announced the move on Saturday afternoon where his basketball life very much began, at the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreational Center. He was there as part of a celebration of six Black basketball coaches all of whom hail from the East End.

Included in that group was Ron White, officially still the current varsity basketball head coach of the Killer Bees, who was a former player under Johnson and his predecessor after he retired in March 2017.

Also among that group of coaches were former Killer Bees Ron Gholson and Nick Thomas, who went on to become coaches at Westhampton Beach and Center Moriches, respectively, and Southampton basketball legends Herm Lamison and Richard “Juni” Wingfield.

Johnson was the first of the coaches to speak on Saturday when he explained that White had approached him a few weeks back about having an opportunity he had to coach somewhere else on the island — which would leave Bridgehampton with a coaching vacancy. Johnson then said he’d be returning to coach and looked forward to meeting his friend, Herm Lamison, head coach of the Southampton varsity boys basketball team, back on the court.

“Be careful of what you wish for,” Lamison replied, which caused the 70 or so in attendance on Saturday to cheer.

White confirmed on Monday that he did, in fact, speak to Johnson about a week or two ago following the conclusion of this past season about possibly coming back, but at first it was about rejoining the coaching staff as an assistant coach. Not too long after that, maybe two weeks, White said he had been approached, for the third time in five years, by the Stony Brook School, a Christian boarding and day school for seventh to 12th grade students.

The private school was looking to hire White to not only lead its boys basketball team, but be a member of its development team in addition to being director of basketball operations. White said that after talking to the head of the school, Joshua Crane, the long-term projection is to put Stony Brook in the same conversation as nationally-ranked programs like Long Island Lutheran and similar programs that are able to recruit players.

Feeling that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up for a third time, White approached Johnson again, now asking him if he’d be interested in taking his old post back as head coach of the Killer Bees. After thinking about it for a few days and conferring with his family, Johnson said he’d love to come back.

“Once I went home and talked it over with everyone, and they said, ‘Yeah, go back,’ it was a no-brainer,” Johnson said. “Then after I spoke to the AD, Mike DeRosa, who said, ‘We would love to have you back,’ it was a done deal. There was relief all the way around and I told them, ‘You don’t have to worry, I’m here as long as you need me.’”

White said it was not an easy decision to make, knowing that his new charge would take him away from his community, but it was very much a dream job for him. White said that it’s yet to be determined whether he’ll be stepping down from his post as Bridgehampton School Board president. That’s something that will take a little more time to figure out. And while he and his family will be keeping their home in Bridgehampton, they will also find a new home in the Stony Brook area so that White is closer to his new job.

“I dreamed to be able to wake up and be around the sport of basketball,” he said. “I spoke with my family and my children, and I decided to brave the elements and have a go at it. I’ll be sourcing the entire country and globe, hand-picking some of the best and brightest student-athletes out there and I accept the challenge here at the Stony Brook School.”

White has volunteered his time as both school board president and head coach of the boys basketball team, never receiving any stipends for either position.

“All my entire life I’ve been volunteering at Bridgehampton,” he said. “I’ve spent tireless hours over the past decade and a half giving back to the Bridgehampton community and the East End community as a whole. It is a blessed opportunity and I’ve had people around me who have told me that I should really take this act on the road. I wasn’t smart enough to get a teaching degree so that I could have been working in a school district. Instead, the business world of real estate took me by storm 18 years ago, but all of it has been nothing but a godsend and allowed me to follow my passion.”

While nothing is official, Bridgehampton School Principal Mike Miller and the district acknowledged the upcoming return of Johnson, who was inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame in March, and the departure of White.

“We would like thank Coach White for volunteering his time over the years. We were extremely lucky to have such a committed coach and leader who was dedicated to our student athletes, our district, and our school community,” Miller said. “While at the same time, we are excited for next steps, having our New York State Hall of Fame coach, Coach Johnson, back in the program. It is an opportunity for the program to continue to excel and improve in order to provide our school community another state championship run.”

In his 26-year career coaching the Killer Bees, which ended after the 2016-2017 season, Johnson won four New York State Class D Championships, in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2015. He has the rare distinction of winning state championships as both a coach and player for the same team, leading Bridgehampton as its point guard to state titles in 1978, 1979 and 1980 under then head coach Roger Golden. Bridgehampton has won a total of nine state championships, second only to Mount Vernon, a much larger school that has 11.

Johnson returned to the sidelines this winter to coach Bridgehampton’s junior high girls basketball team. He admitted that in some ways that did get him thinking that maybe he wasn’t quite done coaching, and White said he saw that as well when he saw him coach some games.

“You could see it in his demeanor. And then it came flashing back to all the great moments that we shared on the court together, and I kept saying to myself, ‘He’s not done with coaching, he’s not done with his legacy,’” White said. “And that’s what prompted me to reach out to him and get a feel of whether or not he wanted to come back.”

Johnson admitted there had been a “void” since he left coaching, and that returning will fill that, but it’s going to take time. In some ways, the Killer Bees will be in a slight rebuild, having some seniors graduate this month. But the team’s rising sophomore core of Alex Davis, Jai Feaster and Sae’vion Ward, along with rising senior Mikhail Feaster, will certainly be something Johnson can build with.

“We’ll see what happens. I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “The kids are different than they were even six years ago. I’m trying to get my mind reset. Being away for six years, have to get back into the flow of things and that will be the hardest adjustment. We’ll be very young, one of the youngest teams out there, so we’ll need some time. Hopefully the kids are patient with me and I can be patient with them.”

White, who has been the School Board president since 2013, won three state titles under Johnson with those 1990s teams. After Bridgehampton lost by two points to Greenport in the Suffolk County Championship his senior year, White graduated in 1999 and moved on to SUNY-Cortland. He returned to Long Island shortly thereafter, though, and played under one of the top head coaches in the region, Rich Wrase, at Suffolk County Community College in Selden. As a captain of that team, White and Wrase led the Sharks to three historic seasons from 2003 to 2005, which included two National Championships and an astounding record of 54-1. His time in Selden led to a full scholarship to Long Island University-Southampton, which is where he finished his playing career.

After six years of coaching the Bees, White is leaving with three county titles, having won the program’s first and only Long Island Championship in 2019, and three regional final appearances.

While he may not be as visible as he’s been, White said he’s not completely leaving his community behind and cherishes all of the time and memories he’s made in his hometown.

“It’s been a collage of amazing events that have shaped me to become a citizen who has a desire and passion for service,” he said. “And this move does nothing but add to the legacy of Bridgehampton where we constantly talk about hard work and dedication and through it all it opens up doors you could never imagine.

“This is Bridgehampton’s success as much as it is mine,” he added, “and I will continue to be a person for my entire Bridgehampton community. If it weren’t for my community, this opportunity does not present it itself, so I am ridiculously thankful for Bridgehampton, and equally thankful to the East End as a whole.”

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