Saturday, November 28, 2009

An open letter to George Johnson

George: According to several accounts, you've quit the Gannon basketball team one game into your third season. In this letter, I'm not going to beg you to come back. I'm just going to tell you what you may be setting yourself up for.

I'm writing this message not so much as a Gannon fan but as a hiring manager. I've been in hiring and personnel management for nearly 20 years, the last several as the president/general manager at a medium-sized national publishing company. In that capacity, I've conducted or supervised job interviews for several hundred candidates and a hired a few dozen of them. Based on our company's success, I've even been asked to speak at conferences and hosted webinars about hiring and management best practices. I mention all that so you know I'm not just some yahoo spouting off; I've got real world experience at this.

In a couple years you'll be applying for jobs and, if you do indeed quit the team in middle of a season, someone's going to ask you about it. And what are you going to say? No matter what the details, here's what the hiring manager will hear from you: "I disagreed with something, so I took the easy way out and quit, leaving my teammates and coaches in a predicament. I stuck with the team when the times were good, but when the going got tough, I bailed."

Details aside, that will be the basic story the hiring manager is left with, no matter what details you provide. So, as a hiring manager, what will I be thinking? When this job gets hard, there's a good chance George will quit on me and quit on his teammates. That's not a certainty, but as a hiring manager who's paid to predict your future behavior, that's a reasonable conclusion to make based on your past behavior.

And don't think that future hiring managers won't find out about you leaving the team. I ask every candidate coming out of college what activities they were involved in and then press for as many details as I can. With you being 6-foot-3, someone's going to assume that you played ball, and they'll find out that you jumped ship if they ask enough questions.

Three of my co-workers played college basketball, and it's no coincidence they're among the most successful in their field. Two of these guys played for Jerry Slocum (Cory Coleman at Gannon and Lucas Marsh at Geneva) and one played for Karl Fogel at Mercyhurst (Dave Lanahan). You might not know those coaches, but let's just say they weren't exactly sunshine and lollipops. (For example, this is a photo of Slocum smiling.) Did Cory, Lucas, and Dave endure adversity during their college hoops days? Absolutely -- tons of it. But did these guys quit? No.

Here's one more example of someone who stuck it out and how it paid off for them. Gee Blanks was a senior teammate of mine at Gannon when new coach Bob Dukiet was hired. For a period in the preseason and early season, I think Gee got thrown out of practice every other day. And as far as playing time, he got only spot minutes despite being an athletic and tenacious defender. A few weeks into the season, his best friend (Sly Simpkins) quit the team. And then for the second semester, Gee was declared academically ineligible. Time to pack up and head home, right? Nope. Gee completed makeup work, got himself eligible again, and a was a key contributor and tremendous teammate as we advanced to the Elite Eight. What's Gee doing today? He's a respected and award-winning executive at GECAC here in Erie. The habits he developed in college determined where he is today.

Let me say that again: The habits he developed in college determined where he is today.

George, if you can swallow your pride, return to Erie, and ask your coaches and teammates for forgiveness, these past few days will be a footnote in your life. A prospective employer won't ever hear about it unless you tell him what happened. Heck, it could even turn out to be a positive story about a lesson you learned. Personally as a hiring manager, I'd be impressed that you took responsibility for your mistake and made amends.

If you don't come back to the team, at least you now know what you might be getting yourself into down the road. Life is a series of choices. Choose wisely.

Jim Roddy


  1. I just got done talking with a player from Gannon and he said George has no officially quit. He left in the middle of the night a few nights ago and no one knew until they discovered hr was gone next morning. Apparently he has made contact with the team and said he'll be back in school when break is over Monday. Obviously that means he didn't address the team so he could be
    done, but no official word as of yet.

    Jim: great letter!! You should send that to him!!!

  2. coachcorey i agree! can we print this and put this on the door to the mill? not only does george need to hear this, but ALL players need to be reminded of these things. great job, jim!

  3. Jim,
    Great letter and I agree with you 100%. Just one more point I'd add: If George leaves the team, that (likely) means his scholarship is gone too. Without the scholarship, would George even finish school to get to one of those job interviews?

  4. WOW WOW WOW!!! 13-13 at halftime?? Win or lose, the first half was the best 20 mins we've played all season!!! Let's go Knights in the 2nd half!!!!

  5. So offensively a lot of our players still look lost, but defensively Gannon tore them up. Maybe it took a few "departures" for the players to realize this isn't high school or juco ball anymore?? Whatever coach Reilly did and-or said in the past 24 hours, I applaud him. I applaud the players more, however, for responding. Good game!!

    Off point... Is it just me or does anyone else feel that Harris shouldve been on the all-tournament team?

  6. I feel like the Knights just beat the Soviets or something. I'm waiting for Al Michaels to yell "do you believe in miracles?!"
    As awesome as last seasons run was, that game was just as fun because of the stunning and unexpected nature of that W.
    I really am at a loss for words, that defense tonight was outstanding. And I completely agree with you coach Corey, Preston should have been on the tourney team.

  7. A season of the improbable, the impossible has happened. GO GANNON!

  8. Ok I just wanted to make sure because the group I was with said they didn't feel so but I'm thinking he led with 14 last night and helped spark the run to make the game respectable and tonight he won and sealed the game with his defense and free throws. Although he was def not the sole reason Gannon won, that was a total defensive effort.

    Jim: stats question. Don't know if you can find out but we've been out rebounded 3 straight games now. 1. When's the last game we were out rebounded? 2. When's the last time we were out rebounded 3+ straight games? 3. When's the last time we were out rebounded and won??

    I don't think we were out rebounded at all last year and I think the year before was about the same, but curious to see.

  9. Ditto on Preston H. The way GU played tonight they should have had two. Dja notice when Pa;mer from NKy got the MVP trophy, he was ho hum. I know he was upset about the loss but still that was a nice trophy.
    13 - 13 at the half, I never...

  10. Great game tonight ... It was quite the improbable win ... on guts and effort alone.

    Does anyone have a media guide with all-time results before 1980? This was an epic low-scoring game. My search of the media guide shows that no Gannon game in the past 30 seasons featrued a game where either team scored 40 or fewer, let alone BOTH teams. I'll have to dig out my old ones from the attic. The lowest-scoring game that I have seen is the 47-42 uglyfest loss at Mercyhurst about five years ago or so. Halftime stats may be even harder to come by, but I bet you'll have to back a few decades to find a half with fewer than 26 combined points.

    Going into this year's GM classic, the lowest scoring game was a 62-55 GU win back some time ago. Then last night the 57-45 loss broke the record by some 15 points. And tonight was one better ... the 40-38 game shattered the record. And to top it off, both teams broke the record for fewest points in a game.

    This is clearly one of the five strangest basketball games that I have seen.

    Coach Corey -- GU was outrebounded 37-30 by IUP in a 69-64 win last February. Don't know about the three straight outrebounded games, but I'm sure it was in the past 10 years or so.

    Now the bad news ... I'm afraid that we'll have to play this way to win any game. This teams can't score. Again ... the 128 points in three consecutive games is the lowest in the past 30 seasons. The '05-'06 gang put up 135 points in three straight GLIAC road losses. Again, we'll have to go back to the Carter administration or earlier to find one, but the media guide starts in the 1980's.

    But tonight was clearly a satisfying win, and maybe a ray of hope for this season which, to date, has shown virtually none.

  11. GU Fanman -- What was Palmer supposed to do with the trophy? Jump up and down and do a dance? High-five the scorers table?

    He spent 40 minutes completely taken out of his game against a team that I'm sure they expected to dominate. Then they go out and lose 40-38. FORTY TO THIRTY-EIGHT. It's gotta be a sickening feeling losing a game like that.

    By the way, I failed to mention that former Ashland coach and Calgary 88's of the WBL coach Roger Lyons was at the game. I'm sure that he saw higher scoring quarters in the WBL.

  12. Really good letter, Jim. Great lesson for any young people, let alone college athletes.

    However, I spoke with several members of the basketball team after the game, and I got the impression that they aren't all that upset about Johnson's departure. The circumstances of his departure were allegedly pretty shoddy and they feel that he abandoned them. The general off-the-record reaction was that George shouldn't let the door hit him in the rear end on the way out. Their play this evening kind of backed that up. Perhaps they used the situation as a rallying point to fuel their efforts, who knows? Not sure they want him back. We'll see. I remember hearing Bob Dukiet talking about addition by subtraction back in the day. That might be the case here.

  13. Golden- thanks for the rebounds stats. I can't believe they were out rebounded in a game last season!! I was thinking it had been a few years. I was openly wrong though! Thanks again for the stat!!

    Gannon74- I agree. That was kind of my point when I said that coach Reilly could have used these departures as kind of a wake up call for the others. I mean the 3 that left, maybe they don't need the scholarship to stay in school or maybe they don't need school at all (in their minds) whereas the one who were at the game last night (dressed or not) they may NEED their scholarship just to go to school and their love of the game makes them want it even more.

    Also, I know it's only one game and I'm not expecting a national championship now because of it, but if George did come back and this squad continued to play well... Who exactly would he replace? My guess?!... Sanders or Reid....

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  15. So I'm hoping he was either messing around with me or he just flat out changes his mind, but I just got done talking to George about 10 minutes ago... and he said he is not returning to Gannon... period. Team or school. He didn't give me much to go with (which I was expecting nor was I going to pry further), but he just said that right now he was more needed at home. So not sure what to make of that.

    Just a girl: Very good points! And yes, Coach Reilly's statements got me thinking as well. However, I was doing some research about what the rules are with adding players mid-season if players drop from the program, etc. One thing I read is that it says as a long as a player participates in the season in some aspect he or she cannot lose their scholarship until the end of that respective semester, trimester, period, etc. unless they were dismissed from the team and school on bad terms. So by that, I'm going to take it that as long as Reid and Sanders are still at Gannon (which it appears they are as both were in the crowd as spectators last night, but who knows) then their scholarships are still theirs. However, if George is definitely not coming back to Gannon, his should be open. The other thing was that it said that you can only bring in players in "post-academic" periods. So if he were to have the mindset to bring in a few new ones to replace those who have left, I'd imagine it'd be the same time that Bryant is supposed to come.

    Also, Bryant's situation must be different as, although he is still in New York taking classes and finishing this semester, he is also listed as enrolled at Gannon. So, knowing that he was coming, Gannon must have had to enroll him and just like "freeze" his account so he would be eligible to play?! Not sure, but he's definitely listed as a Gannon student.

  16. Also, does anyone know who the player sitting behind the Gannon bench was? (he was wearing the same black and white striped windsuits as the other non-dressed Gannon players). At first I said it was Simmons, but it wasn't as when Gannon called a timeout Simmons was clearly on the bench as he towered over just about everyone and the player behind the bench was nowhere near that tall haha

    Malcolm, Demski, Simmons, Batts, and Buck were all sitting at end of bench.

    Could the player behind be Bryant?!

  17. CC3-

    I heard that another football player was walking on the basketball team. I have no idea who he is or what his basketball experience is, but I think he might be the guy you saw sitting behind the bench. I'm relatively certain that wasn't Bryant.

  18. Speaking of football players, what happened to Jonathan jones? He was one of the guys always in warm-ups last season and was a highly regarded player by Coach Reilly and the players. But I know it wasn't Jonathan behind the bench, def a player I've never seen before.

    I don't think it was Bryant either as this guy was pretty tall and I think Bryant is 6'3..?!

  19. Just came across this quote on Twitter: "Quitting is a permanent solution to a temporary problem." Anonymous

  20. What about Marcus Fowler? His football bio relates that he is 6'10" and has several accolades in basketball in his home state of Ohio.

  21. Yah I heard he actually thought about it but football coach said no!!

  22. coachcorey3-

    For the record, I was told that Bryant is around 5'9"-5'10"

  23. Oh.. When they listed him in the paper in the original Gannon recruiting class it said 6'3"

  24. Although when batts started first game they announced him at 5'9" and in guide he's listed at 5'6". So they like to add inches haha

    also I'm only 5'4"-ish and standing next to batts he is def not 2 inches taller than me

  25. When Bryant was listed on the 7/16/2009 press announcement he was listed at 5'10'

  26. I just looked at the men's basketball roster, and George Johnson is no longer listed. That's a shame.

  27. Yah. I just talked to a player and he didn't return to school either. From what I've heard it had nothing to do with the team though. Everyone is saying he had major family issues. Some have said they heard he's coming back next year. But well just have to wait and see.

  28. Its like crying over spilt milk. Gone is gone. I know most are just curious. If it was a family health issue, understandable. If it wasn't that leaves a lot open to speculation. The mud should be cleared up for the GU faithful.
    Other then that, we need to move on and concentrate on Urbana coming up Sat.

  29. I agree that we just need to concentrate on moving forward and allow this team to grow and get better. Tough game coming up Saturday, it will be interesting to see how we come out against this team. We all keep hearing about different players possibly joining the team. Has anyone heard of a kid from NIGERIA possibly coming aboard ? I heard this one the other day.

  30. how about Mercyhurst blowing a 13 or whatever point lead and losing to Urbana?! Maybe Urbana is more of the "real deal" then Gannon is "bad".??!!

  31. And you thought that the GU / NKU first half was low scoring. Tonight Pitt beat New Hampshire at home, 47-32. Pitt led 15-7 at the half. Apparently, it was the lowest scoring first half in the Division I shot clock era.

    NHU was 3-of-25 in the first half with 10 turnovers. Yuk.

    NHU scored five points in the first four minutes, then scored just one basket at the 9:24 mark. Double yuk. During that time, Pitt went on a 15-2 run over the final 16:16.

    In that fateful 16 minutes, NHU was 1/18 from the field, 0/4 from the free throw line and committed eight turnovers. Triple yuk.

  32. What's worse though? NHUs poor production or the fact that Pitt wasn't much better??

  33. hey mr roddy...George Johnson went on and became a all american less than one year later...i see you didnt write an open letter on that one..clown ass Roddy...oh and how did gannon do last season? well my cousin set a school record and finished 3rd in the nation as HE LED hes team to it all..clown ass erie..dont know good basketball when you see it? you shouldnt not only begged him to should have paid that can blame the coaching/recruiting staff..they didnt bring in who he he left..BOSS