Former Sixer Ollie Johnson, Director of Athletics at Community College of Philadelphia, Retires
PHILADELPHIA, June, 2011—Ollie Johnson, a former member of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, is retiring as director of Athletics at Community College of Philadelphia, after nearly 20 years at the College.
A ceremony in recognition of Johnson’s many years of service will be held at 1 p.m., Tuesday, June 28 in the Rotunda at the College’s Mint Building, 17th and Spring Garden Streets.
Johnson, 62, joined the Athletics staff in 1991 as Assistant Athletic Director and later was promoted to the top position. As director of Athletics, he is responsible for the College’s nine varsity athletic teams, 25 intramural sports, and a daily roster of recreational activities open to students and College employees. Johnson also is a big advocate for initiatives that promote issues involving men’s health and he coordinates outreach programs that specifically target wellness for men.
Under his leadership, the Athletic Department has focused on academic achievement in addition to athletic excellence. Johnson is especially proud of the fact that students participating in the College’s Athletics programs are more likely to complete their education than other students. Members of the Colonials’ basketball, baseball, cross-country track, tennis, and volleyball teams typically receive scholarship offers from four-year colleges and universities.
The College’s athletic teams have won more than 45 championship titles in men’s and women’s basketball, men's and women’s cross-country, and tennis during Johnson’s tenure. In 2007 alone, the College boasted four state team championships – men’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross-country, and team tennis. “The young athletes are more important than winning games or championships,” Johnson said. “It’s all about the kids.”
Pointing to the dozens of photos, press clippings and awards that hang on the walls of his tiny office, Johnson notes that very few bear his name or face. “I don’t need the spotlight. I had that in the NBA [National Basketball Association],” Johnson said. “This job is not about me.”
Johnson cites the College’s African-American Men’s Book Club as another of his major accomplishments. The book club, which he co-founded seven years ago, meets monthly to discuss “books about the Black experience current and historical,” Johnson said.
Johnson attended Community College of Philadelphia as a freshman and played basketball for a year at the College, before transferring to Temple University, where he played three seasons for the Owls. He was the first Temple player to average 11.5 points and 10.7 rebounds a game.
Unlike so many of his peers, who spent most of their free time at neighborhood basketball courts, Johnson was 19 years old before he began to shoot hoops. In high school, he was more interested in baseball and checkers. But between age 17 and 19, Johnson grew six inches, from 5-feet-11 inches to 6-feet-5 inches. It was then that his friends began taking him to the basketball courts and insisting that he play.
Two years after graduating from South Philadelphia High School, the young Johnson was earning just $1.35 an hour at a local factory and still living at home. “That’s what drove me to come to school; not basketball,” he said. “Were it not for Community College of Philadelphia, I may never have made it to college.”
Johnson received a bachelor degree in Marketing at Temple in 1972. That same year, he started his NBA career as a second round draft pick for the Portland Trail Blazers. Over the next 10 seasons, Johnson also played for the New Orleans Jazz, Kansas City Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, and, lastly, the Philadelphia 76ers. He averaged 7.7 points per game during his pro career.