Johnny Mitchell brings success and experience to Pike Lib Hoops

Published 8:54 am Monday, June 26, 2023

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New Pike Liberal Arts boys’ basketball coach Johnny Mitchell is going into his 30th year as a head basketball coach and it will also be his first with the Patriots.

After seven successful seasons as the head coach at Highland Home High School, Mitchell retired from the public school system and headed to Pike. It was a previous connection between Mitchel and current PLAS Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Phillip Coggins that brought him to Pike Lib.

“I finished up 29 years teaching and coaching in the public school system this past year and Coach Coggins and I had worked together for two and a half years at Highland Home,” Mitchell said. “Both the football and basketball programs were in pretty bad shape at Highland Home when we got there and I think we got both programs turned in the right direction and they’ve had success on both ends now.

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“He got the job (at Pike) and knew I had enough years in to retire if I wanted to and asked me what it would take to get me over here. We worked that out and I retired on June 1 (from Highland Home) and on the same day, I took the job at Pike Lib.”

Mitchell grew up in Brantley, where he played alongside Wesley Person, who would go on to play for more than a decade in the NBA. Person’s son, Wesley Person Jr., would also go on to play at Troy University and set a number of school records.

“I was a good high school player but not a great one,” Coggins said with a laugh. “I played with Wesley Person and that made me a better player but it also made me realize I wasn’t good enough to play at the next level.”

Mitchell graduated from Troy University in 1994 and immediately jumped into the coaching profession, starting out as the basketball coach at Glenwood School in Phenix City.

“One of their big rivals was Pike Lib,” Mitchell recalled. “(Longtime Pike Lib coach) Dwight Ward was really good to me – and nice to me – as a 22-year old coach at that time, too. Things seem to come back around with me at Pike Lib now.”

Mitchell went on to spend time as a coach at Crenshaw Christian, Verbena, Lowndes Academy, Dale County, Straughn, Highland Home, Brantley, Goshen and Kinston during his career. During most of his coaching stops as a head basketball coach he also served on the football staff. In fact, he served as head football, basketball and softball coach during his time at Kinston. Mitchell served as offensive coordinator at Highland Home and will also serve in that role with the Pike Lib football team, as well.

During Mitchell’s career, he’s posted a career record of 438-353 in the AHSAA, making him just one of a handful of coaches during to surpass 400 career wins. Mitchell’s first Highland Home team went just 4-12 and had not had a winning season in many years. The 2021-2022 team earned an Area Championship and made a Final Four appearance for the first time in school history. Mitchell says that his goal for Pike Lib is to help rebuild the program, much like he did with Highland Home.

“We’re just coming into the AHSAA, so our goal is to build a program that competes for championships,” Mitchell emphasized. “I’ve been blessed to coach some really good teams at Brantley and Highland Home and we hope to do that here. It’s the same goal the football program has.

“We want programs that compete for championships and we want to do it with quality kids. We want to build these programs with kids with character and kids that in 10 years, after they graduate, are happy to be alumni here and come back for reunions and are proud of what we built here.”