• Diane Roberts

Part 2 with Coach Paul Johnson: Johnson's Coaching Tree

by Diane Roberts

If you're a fan of the NFL you've heard of the Bill Parcells "coaching tree" or the Tony Dungy tree, mighty trunks with branches made up of other head coaches throughout the league. There's a coaching tree in academy football too, and its roots start with former Navy Head Coach Paul Johnson.

Army Head Coach Jeff Monken has been coaching for 32 years, with stints at Arizona State, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech before settling in at Army in 2014.

Navy's Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo has been coaching for 31 years, with stops in Hawaii and Nevada-Las Vegas before landing in Annapolis.

What they have in common is . . . Paul Johnson, who was Navy's Head Coach from 2002 -- 2007.

Former Navy Head Football Coach Paul Johnson, center, has been a mentor to Army Head Coach Jeff Monken, left, and Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo, right.

"It's always a source of pride of both those guys coached with me for a number of years," the now-retired Johnson beams, "And Jeff was with me at Georgia Southern and Navy and at Georgia Tech for a while."

"One of the most competitive people I've ever been around," says Army's Coach Monken, "and just one of the best play callers that I think that college football has had in a long time."

Coach Monken was with Coach Johnson from 1989 -- 1900 and a again from 1997 -- 2009. Coach Niumatalolo was with Johnson from 1900 -- 1994, then again from 2002 -- 2007.

But Coach Niumatalolo got his start under Coach Johnson as a player, and so did Navy's quarterbacks coach, Ivin Jasper.

"I can remember when we was a quarterback at the University of Hawaii," Johnson says, "both he and Coach Jasper played for me there, both as quarterbacks. And then he [Niumatalolo] became a video guy for a year and then at Georgia."

"I started learning from him back then," Navy's Niumatalolo remembers, "and I knew back then that he was a special coach, really, really smart. You know this is basically his offense along with Coach Stowers and some other coaches I remember. The guy, to me, that kind of put this offense together, just a lot of bits and pieces that they, over the years, had come in. But it's really his [Paul Johnson's] creation."

And then when I went to the Naval Academy," Johnson recalls, "I was able to bring him [Niumatalolo] over with us to the Naval Academy and he just worked his way up."

Coach Monken and Coach Niumatalolo worked on the same staff with Coach Johnson at Navy from 2002 -- 2007. That's when they started learning the ways of the triple-option . . . and more.

"Certainly the offensive scheme is a big part of it," Monken says, "We both utilize the offense that we learned under Coach Johnson. I think we both learned a competitiveness and I think a demand for excellence which Coach [Johnson] had. And to try to maximize the players that we had and to try to be as good as we could be to work really, really hard to coach fundamentals, which I think is a really, really important part of the game."

"If it wasn't for him," Niumatalolo says of Johnson, "I'd still be in Hawaii. I would say probably driving a tour bus or something. I don't know what I'd be doing, but [I'm] grateful for Coach Johnson."

Now we're left to wonder who will branch off from Coaches Monken and Niumatalolo to be the next generation of Coach Johnson's tree.

edited for web by Joe Harman