COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Nothing is ever met with universal applause. However on June 18, when the announcement that Tihon Johnson, Columbus East graduate, basketball legend and founder of the Kingdom Summer League, would take over for the amazing Sean Taylor, no one could muster up a negative syllable about Johnson taking this job.
Tihon is one of the most respected basketball minds in our area, the issue most people had was how it took so long to get him a job.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with all the support and love,” Johnson said.
The well traveled Johnson will bring experience, connections and a true passion for helping young men to the Viking organization, an organization that still has a ton of talent on its team.
Johnson said a combination of things will be vital to helping Northland get back to the top, as the Vikings have gone six years without a district title after rattling off eight in nine years from 2007-15.
"Getting as many hours as we can, watching film, establishing our identity and our principles [will be vital]," Johnson said.
The former state final four representative is also busy in the summer with the Kingdom Summer League, a Pro-am based here in Columbus that invites the best college and professional players from around the area and beyond to compete for a title.
The games are every Sunday at Ohio Dominican and will feature bonafide 614 legends such as Jared Sullinger and Trey Burke as well as future stars from the city such as Africentric’s Dailyn Swain and Eastmoor graduate and Marshall superstar Taevion Kinsey.
Once the summer wraps up, Johnson's full focus will be on the opportunity that awaits him on the north side of town.
In this first season, Johnson is ready for the challenge of a City League North Division that has not been won by the Vikings since 2019, which marked the first time since 2005-06 that teams
besides Northland have represented the North in back-to-back seasons.
Beechcroft has been the divisional bully as of late, winning City League titles in 2018 and 2021, while Linden-McKinley made its first run to a division title in 2020, marking the first time that was done since 1992.
Despite the talented teams in the division, Johnson is ready for the task at hand. One of his first orders of business has been to make connections with the kids on the team and students in the school, which will help the program pack the stands once again on Northcliff Drive.
The former East Tiger standout is excited about his return to the Columbus City League.
“I know how much it meant to me as a player when I was a kid and to be able to come back 20 years later and getting to lead young men is something that meant so much to me,” Johnson said.
The Northland brain trust did a remarkable job in replacing a coach in Sean Taylor, who three-straight district titles from 2013-15, while winning the City League four times in his first five seasons.
Johnson will have plenty of talent to work with in his first season, despite the loss of key graduating senior Makhale Massey, who will head off to Otterbein where he has a chance to be a great player.
With only a few practices under his belt, the new head man for the Vikings does not fully know the strengths and weaknesses of every player yet but he understands that he has an experienced player to rely on in point guard Rob Dorsey III.
The senior, who averaged just under 18 points per game last season, stood out to his new head coach in the few times he saw him play prior to taking over the job.
“I like the abilities he possesses,” Johnson said, “I think we can help him get better.”
Along with Dorsey, Northland also returns some young players that are full of potential such as junior guard Davion Bridges, who looks to spread his wings a little more this upcoming season. Senior guard Tabree Beacham and senior forward Davion Mitchell are two other players that could give the Vikings a big boost in year one.
Despite lacking the same size that division rivals Beechcroft and Linden will have, look for Johnson's Vikings to fight hard, be scrappy and play with a togetherness that exudes from the character of their new head coach.
Northland athletic director Mario Bowles did an excellent job with his hire, a choice that could not have been an easy one due to the expectations that the program has and a choice that could have lasting effects for generations to come in the Central Ohio area.
It was only a little over a decade ago that Northland was the No. 1 team in the nation, appearing on ESPN multiple times, virtually unbeaten in Ohio and sending multiple players into the NBA.
With a community-driven and servant leader like Johnson at the helm, the Vikings may have a chance to get back to those dreamy days of dominance.