Faith Johnson Patterson makes her athletes see that good things are possible.
Growing up on Minneapolis' North Side, Faith Johnson Patterson knew early on that she had a talent for putting a ball through a basket. She never dreamed, however, that her passion for basketball would lead to a Hall of Fame induction.
A star player at the old Marshall University High School in Minneapolis and then at the University of Wisconsin, Johnson Patterson has coached girls' basketball teams at Minneapolis North and DeLaSalle (her current job) to a combined 13 state tournament appearances and seven state championships, second only to the eight titles of former Rochester Lourdes coach Myron Glass.
Last Friday, Johnson Patterson was among four coaches inducted in the Minnesota High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, becoming the first black female coach to earn such an honor. Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked with Johnson Patterson about a career that almost wasn't.
Q How did you get started in coaching?
A I was working with youth at the Minneapolis Urban League. I was invited to play in a celebrity all-star basketball game. After that game, I got a couple of phone calls, asking me if I wanted to coach basketball.
Q Were you surprised?
A Yes. I had no desire to coach. I had played Division I basketball. I didn't think I could take coaching players who weren't that good. I thought girls' basketball was kind of boring.
Q What changed your mind?
A [Current Providence Academy coach] Ray Finley thought, for whatever reason, I would be a decent coach. So he talked me into being an assistant for him at Blake.
Q Talk about taking the head coaching job at North.
A The athletic director there, Richard Robinson, tried to talk me into coming, but I wasn't interested. I really wanted to coach at Blake.
Q Good thing you changed your mind.
A Yeah, it was. [Laughs]
Q What is your motivation?
A I didn't have very much support when I was playing. I felt I missed out. Could I have done more? For me, it's always been about how much more I can do for my athletes.
Q Such as?
A When I played at Marshall U, we were in the state tournament in eighth and ninth grade. I loved that feeling. I wanted to get back there so badly. It transforms you. I want my players to experience that. It makes them see that, with the right work ethic, good things are possible. They can see that success exists.
Q What does it mean to be the first black female coach in the Hall of Fame?
A For some reason, people see it as significant. It was never that important to me. For me, the focus has always been about the kids.
Q Are you ever amazed when you look back and see everything you've achieved?
A Every day. At the state tournament this year, I looked up at the scoreboard and saw my name as one of the state's top five coaches. It just blew me away.
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