By Blake Ells
Coaching the Hoover girls basketball team was always Krystle Johnson’s dream. She got that opportunity in 2016, and she has now been a part of five of the six state championships that the school has won.
One as a player, when the school won its first championship, during her senior season in 2001; twice she was an assistant; and twice she was the head coach.
After defeating Hewitt-Trussville 47-33 to claim this year’s state championship, she has been named by her peers as the Over the Mountain Girls Team Basketball Coach of the Year.
Moving her alma mater’s status forward as one of the state’s best girls basketball programs has been rewarding.
“It feels good to know that we have six state championships as a program, and I’ve been a part of five in some way,” she said.
While the Bucs lost a lot of height last season, they found ways to work with the talent that remained.
“We had to take some time to look at how we were going to move forward and win with the talent we had,” she said. “We were a lot smaller, so we decided we (were) going to become a pressing team; one that plays at a fast pace. I think that was the best decision we made. We were able to create a lot of turnovers. We had so many guards on our team we were able to share the ball really well. It became fun to watch. We were really fast.”
The competition in region play has been stiff over the past few seasons. A season ago, Spain Park was the state champion and the season before that, the Bucs claimed the title. That has made things more challenging for Johnson and her squad, but it’s also pushed them to excel.
“You have to be consistent, because on any night, you can be beaten,” she said. “Kids want to find time to take a break, and the way we do our scheduling, we don’t ever have time to take a break. It kind of forces them to play at a high level every night so that becomes their norm.”
The talent level has increased dramatically, which has made the job a little easier for Johnson.
“All 11 of our players would probably be starters somewhere else,” she said. “But at Hoover, they’re not averaging 20 points per game because we have so much talent.”
It’s still early in what assures to be a long, promising career for Johnson. Earning the approval and admiration of her peers at such a young age by being named Coach of the Year is something that humbles her.
“I never worry about accolades for myself, I just want my team to succeed,” she said. “But this was shocking and it means a lot. I’ll keep working to be the best coach that I can be for my girls and help us have a chance to repeat next year.”
Hoover is where Johnson’s family remains, and she plans on staying at home for a long time.