While Bethel has hired high profile coaches in the past, the school has never used a press conference to announce the hiring.
That changed Thursday morning when the husband and wife team of Drew and Nichole (Ohlde) Johnson were named Bethel’s women’s head and assistant basketball coaches, respectively.
Drew Johnson succeeds Adam Esses, who left Bethel after one season to become an assistant coach at Texas-San Antonio, an NCAA Division I program.
Nicole Johnson might be the better known of the pair. The former Kansas State standout led the Wildcats to four NCAA tournaments, including a trip to the Sweet 16. She spent seven seasons in the WNBA and nine years playing professionally in Europe.
“I knew since I first took the basketball court when I was in high school that my dream was to coach,” Drew Johnson said. “Over the past nine years, I have had the chance to do that at the high school level. With Nicole, I have had the chance to do that at the summer club level. Now at Bethel College, it really is a dream come true. That’s a message the kids will hear from day one.”
“I am very, very excited,” Nicole Johnson said. “When I finished playing basketball, the biggest thing for me as an adjustment is, what do I do next? In the back of my mind, it was the opportunity to coach college basketball. When this opportunity came up, we felt as a family, it was the right time for us and the right situation. Being in the state of Kansas, we get to stay close to our families. Family is very important to us. We felt the first time we stepped on campus, family was important in this environment. Community is very important. … For us to bring our family to Bethel College, to bring our 3-month old, to raise a family in this environment is going to be very beneficial to us. At the same time, we both get to do something we love to do, and that’s coach basketball.”
“I think the future of the program is in great hands with the people we have hired,” Bethel athletic director Tony Hoops said. “Not just the future of women’s basketball, but the future of Bethel College athletics.”
The Johnsons inherit a team that finished 4-23 last season, 2-20 in conference play. Bethel has not had a winning season since the 2010-11 season and has not reached the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference post-season tournament since 2015.
“The first thing we need to do is establish that culture that we’ve talked about,” Drew Johnson said. “We had the opportunity to talk to the players the last couple of days. There is a real excitement with the program. I believe that’s going to build the foundation. We need the players to believe that we’re there for them. And we need to get better every day.”
Bethel lost three seniors from last season. Five recruit signings have been publicly announced, including local standout Abby Schmidt, a Newton High grad, and junior college transfer Caitlin Williams from Neosho County Community College.
“We’re very excited about the players coming in,” Drew Johnson said. “We had a chance to talk with coach Esses about the recruiting class and where those players are. We’re also excited about the players coming back. We really don’t feel like we’re stepping in from behind. The nice thing about the future recruiting is with the things we’ve done in the summer, we’ve gotten to know some players. We feel like we’re moving forward. We’re also excited about the players coming back this year.”
Drew Johnson has been an assistant coach at Valley Center, Derby and Clay Center high schools. He is a native of Hutchinson and a graduate of Friends University.
The Johnsons also formed the Nicole Ohlde Basketball Academy and the Ohlde Elite club program.
Drew Johnson said he will use four core values as the basis of rebuilding the program.
“There will be a growth mentality, that’s not just for the players, but the coaches,” Drew Johnson said. “Every day, we’re trying to get better as players. Every day, we’re trying to get better as coaches. And every day, we’re trying to get better in the classroom. We want be well rounded student-athletes.
“We want a ‘we over me’ mentality. We have to make sure there is no room for personal agendas on the team. We’re here to build a culture together. That starts from day one.
“We want to be attacking the day, being enthusiastic and grateful for the day we have. Every day we want to make sure we get better.
“We also want to be accountable to each other. The players are accountable to the coaches. The coaches are accountable to the players and the players are accountable to the players.
“The culture is more important than the scheme. I think the players will really get into that. What we do and how we do it is more important than what we run on the floor.”
Hoops assumed the athletic director position just a few weeks ago and has been hit with a number of coaching changes, including the women’s basketball program, the volleyball program, the softball program and the men’s and women’s soccer programs. Both soccer coaches resigned Wednesday.
“The first thing is you look at good people. You look at good fits,” Hoops said of his hiring criteria. “The situation we’ve had in the past six to eight weeks is not ideal. It also creates opportunity. That’s something I’m excited about, especially with Drew and Nicole. You’re hiring not only great basketball coaches and great minds, but you’re hiring good people. … That’s the motto for what we want to do for the athletic programs in general. You can’t always control the results in the win-loss category right away. I think we’re putting some things in place that, in the long term, will make a huge impact for this institution.”
Bethel opens the season Oct. 28 at Mid America Christian.