Beloved coach retires after 38 years

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo — One of the longest tenured basketball coaches in Colorado Springs coached his last game Friday. This brings to an end his 38-year career at Manitou Middle School.

Rodney Johannsen, more affectionately known as Mr. Jo, has coached between 500 and 600 games in his 38 years. Friday he went out on top with a win.

His infectious personality will be sorely missed by everyone past and present at Manitou Middle School. Tonight was his final pregame speech.

“You’re playing for your team, you’re playing for your selves, you’re playing for our teammates. You’re not playing for me tonight,” Johannsen said.

Even in his last game, he’s always teaching.

“What are we trying to do every game? Improve. That’s all we’re asking for is improvement,” he said.

Walking out onto the court for the final time he saw the biggest crowd of his career.

“Mr. Jo. Mr. Jo,” students chanted.

His former players said they still hold so much love for him because he loves them back just as much.

“It was 20 plus years since I’ve been here and when I walked through these doors he still knows my name, so he took the time to not only just teach, but know who we are. He wasn’t just a teacher. He became a part of our family,” said Missi Thomson, former player .

“I think what he’ll be missed the most is just the man that he was. Everyone knows him as Mr. Jo and he’s just a good hearted man,” said Dan Gieck, another former player.

They’ll also remember his passion.

“That was a good quarter. That was a good quarter,” said Johannsen as he coached up his team one last time. “I’ve never experienced anything like this in my coaching. It was just a great experience by the girls. The girls played so well tonight.”

Seeing his former players playing basketball in high school gives him joy, but he said his favorite part in all of his 38 years of coaching is building a team.

“It’s just a joy a toy to come up with a cohesive group that enjoy playing the game.”

He’s heading towards retirement which means spending a lot more time with his grand-kids, but he said he doesn’t rule out the possibility of coaching more youth basketball somewhere down the line.

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