Rashone Johnson knew that eventually his head coaching career was going to come to an end.
And it turns out that as he steps away from coaching, it is for just the right reason.
Johnson has been the head wrestling coach at Princeton High School for the last 19 years, as well as the school’s head coach for track and field. He’ll be giving up those positions now as he transition into his new role as an assistant principal at the school.
“I don’t look at it as it is over, over,” Johnson said of his coaching career. “I am still fortunate enough that the opportunity came in the same building. I can still go to the practices and help out with the schedule. I can help out at counties, districts, regions and states. I can still help out with my kids.
“I can’t be a full-time coach, but I can still get in that room and help out. I put 21 years into that room. I put half my life into the programs at the high school so I want to make sure they stay afloat and have success after I am gone.”
Johnson spent two years as an assistant to Matt Wilkinson in the wrestling program and then 19 years as the head coach. He’s also been coaching track and field and was an assistant football coach at the school as well. His coaching has helped shape him as the person he is and given him a base to build on as he moves into a new role at the school.
“I love coaching,” said Johnson, a graduate of The College of New Jersey who has been a physical education teacher at PHS. “It’s part of who I am. I have been coaching at Princeton High School for half of my life. I’ll try to make that same difference I made in my classroom and in the athletic area. I’ll have a broader range now with many more kids.
“At some point it was going to happen. The timing just happened to work out to make it feel like it was the right move.”
Johnson ends his run as the head wrestling coach after one of the program’s more successful runs. He’s coached three different 100-match winners over the last three years and this past year saw Chloe Ayres emerge as a state champion in the first state tournament for girls.
“It was great,” Johnson said. “These last three years between wrestling and track have been phenomenal. You don’t get someone like (Alec) Bobchin every year. It took me 21 years to get a wrestler of that caliber to come through. And at the same time as Alec you have a Chloe Ayers. You have a Dan Monahan being another 100 match winner. The last three years I’ve had a different 100 match winner every year. I had (James) Verbyest three years ago, Bobchin last year, and then Monahan this year. We went from never having one to I had one the last three years. That’s crazy.”
Johnson has seen some of the best track and field athletes Princeton has produced come through the last few years and was also part of the Little Tigers’ better football seasons.
“We have had one of the best teams in the state the last couple of years,” he said of track and field. “And with football I started when I first got here and hen didn’t coach for three years and then again the last two years. So I coached probably 14 or 15 years.
“I was there for the Steve Everette run with the football team and we had some awesome years. And then I didn’t coach for a couple years and then I came back after that and did two or three years with (Charlie) Gallagher when we had that great 10-2 year. I have been pretty fortunate to be around for some of the things that happened athletically.”
Johnson has been overwhelmed by the support he’s received from those who are excited about his new position. He’s heard from people inside the school, as well as outside as well.
“The amount of love I have been getting from the public, my teams, the teachers in the school, the parents, former athletes and students, it has been great,” he said. “I am getting text from people in town and coaches from around the area. People are happy and sad at the same time. We’ve been doing it a long time and I have a good relationship with a lot of these coaches. It’s a real bittersweet thing.”
But the opportunity to stay in Princeton and continue to work with the same people made this opportunity one he couldn’t pass up.
“That’s what made everything fit so well,” Johnson said. “I don’t have to go and learn another community. I am part of the Princeton community now. It’s good. I think my coaching background and working with so many different people in Princeton lends itself to being an effective administrator.”