ATLANTA — Paul Johnson revealed Thursday he considered stepping down as Georgia Tech’s coach two years ago, before finalizing his decision this week.
The 61-year-old Johnson said he thought about leaving before current athletic director Todd Stansbury was hired in 2016. He said his job had become “drudgery” under former athletic director Mike Bobinski.
“It’s not like I just thought about it last week,” Johnson said in discussing his decision announced on Wednesday . “To be honest with you truthfully, if Todd had not shown up I was ready to do this before he came. It wasn’t as much fun. It was drudgery.”
When Georgia Tech had a slow start this season, Johnson again began thinking about departing.
“We had talks during the year and I told Todd in the middle of the year it wasn’t much fun,” Johnson said. “Then we talked before the Georgia game and set up a time to talk again. … I wanted to make sure I was good with my decision. I didn’t want to do it immediately after a game.”
Georgia Tech recovered from a 1-3 start to finish the regular season 7-5 with last week’s 45-21 loss at No. 4 Georgia. The Yellow Jackets finished 5-3 in the ACC, their first winning record in conference play since 2014.
Johnson will stay on the job through Georgia Tech’s bowl game, possibly in the Dec. 31 Military Bowl.
Stansbury said he began updating the “list in your brain” of coaching candidates after the midseason meeting with Johnson.
“You definitely are paying attention to what’s going on,” Stansbury said. “… The fact I’ve been able to watch a lot of games this year, I’ve kept that in the back of my mind as we figured out what Paul decided he was going to do. I think you’re doing that naturally anyway. You never know when something like this may happen.”
Stansbury wouldn’t discuss potential candidates. He also wouldn’t say if he wants to hire a coach who would bring an offence with more passing than Johnson’s spread option with its triple-option plays.
“At the end of the day, I just want to win games,” Stansbury said. “I don’t necessarily worry about schemes. I’m going to leave that up to the coaches. I’m looking for the best coach for Georgia Tech.”
Possible candidates may include Los Angeles Chargers offensive co-ordinator Ken Whisenhunt, a former Georgia Tech tight end and former NFL head coach with the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans; Clemson co-offensive co-ordinator Tony Elliott; Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield and Temple coach Geoff Collins, a former Georgia Tech assistant.
If Stansbury considers coaches who would likely retain the spread option offence, Army’s Jeff Monken and Kennesaw State’s Brian Bohannon are among possible candidates. Each worked under Johnson at Georgia Southern, Navy and Georgia Tech.
Johnson says he’s young enough to consider another job if he decides to return to coaching following a break.
Johnson, who also coached at Georgia Southern and Navy, compiled a record of 82-59 in 11 seasons at Georgia Tech with three appearances in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. The Yellow Jackets won the 2009 ACC title that was vacated because of NCAA sanctions.
Johnson’s overall record is 189-98, with only four losing seasons in 22 years.
“Very rarely do you have coaches that have the opportunity to finish on your own terms,” Stansbury said. “In this case we have a hall of fame coach in Paul Johnson who has been able to do that.”
Johnson told his players of his decision to “take a break” from coaching on Wednesday.
“I think the two hardest things I’ve probably ever done in my life are when I left Navy and then yesterday,” Johnson said. “It’s just tough. It’s emotional.”
Stansbury said players gave Johnson a standing ovation at the end of the meeting.
Johnson said he plans to spend more time with his wife, Susan, and daughter, Kaitlyn, who attended the news conference.
He also said he “got contacted immediately with other opportunities” after Wednesday’s announcement. Asked if he might consider a TV analyst job, Johnson acknowledged he joked with his staff about that possibility.
“I could do that and take a shot at everybody,” he said, smiling, before adding “I don’t know what the future holds.”
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Charles Odum, The Associated Press