Longtime coach celebrated for her winning attitude in life, education

Photos MSU Texas Athletics
3 min read

Midwestern State mourned the loss of long-time women’s basketball coach Noel Johnson in June following her 14-month fight against ovarian cancer.

Johnson was remembered as a winner in life and basketball. She earned enshrinement in the Texas Tech Hall of Honor in 2005, the Texas High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, and the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame in 2019. Johnson was an NCAA national champion in her playing days at Texas Tech.

At MSU Texas, she became the program’s all-time winningest coach at the helm of the women’s basketball program. Diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer in April 2019, Coach Johnson last coached the Mustangs on Jan. 30, 2020, against Texas A&M-Kingsville. She returned to participate in senior day activities after telling the team she “broke out of the hospital.”


Coach Johnson’s true legacy lies in the complete program she implemented at Midwestern State. Each
of the 37 women who completed their eligibility during her time as head coach earned degrees. Many of the 78 student-athletes she mentored return to the program each year for alumni events. One of her frequent sayings was that “tradition never graduates.” 

“What I will always remember about my dear friend Noel Johnson is her consistency with how she treated people,” MSU Texas Athletic Director Kyle Williams said. “Noel was the epitome of a player’s coach. Noel leaves a significant mark on the Midwestern State’s women’s basketball program.”

Johnson claimed 159 wins during her 12 seasons, guiding the program to the Lone Star Conference championship in 2013, and three consecutive NCAA Division II regional tournament appearances. She was the Lone Star  Conference Coach of the Year in 2011-12 and earned Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ Small College Coach of the Year the following year with a 26-win season.

“I so appreciated the clear commitment that Noel had to supporting and mentoring young women. Her influence will be felt in their lives for many years to come,” said MSU Texas President Suzanne Shipley.

In her playing career, Johnson helped Texas Tech win four straight Southwest Conference championships from 1991-95. That included the national championship season of 1993.

One of her teammates, Krista Gerlich, now the women’s basketball head coach at Texas Tech University, reflected on her friendship with Coach Johnson. “Noel was the most loyal friend I had. As fierce as she was on the court, she was just as fierce as a friend. When we both landed in the Lone Star Conference, it was so much fun competing against her, but yet at the same time, I hated every second of it. I didn’t like competing against my dear friend, we were used to winning together. I loved our calls and texts during the season to check on one another, ask for advice or bounce ideas off each other. Every phone call, text, or departure ended with the same phrase, ‘love ya sista.’ As painful as it was to watch her battle with cancer over the last year, her courage and toughness  shone through as it always did in everything she did, as a player, as a coach, as a daughter, as a friend. I’m so  thankful she is no longer in pain, but I will miss my dear friend and sister so very much. She left an incredible legacy.” 

Marsha Sharp, the Texas Tech Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach from 1982-2006, remembers Johnson as “one of the most beloved players in the history of Texas Tech women’s basketball.

A memorial celebrating the life of Noel Johnson was held on June 20 at D.L Ligon Coliseum.

The Noel Johnson Athletic Scholarship fund was established to honor Coach J and support studentathletes.

Learn more at https://msutexas.edu/annualfund/make-a-gift.