Midwestern State Women’s Basketball Coach Noel Johnson passes away

Story Courtesy Trey Reed / MSU Athletic Communications

Midwestern State mourns the loss of long-time women’s basketball coach Noel Johnson following a 14-month fight against ovarian cancer Tuesday morning.

The program’s all-time winningest coach was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian Cancer in April and last coached the Mustangs on Jan. 30 against Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Johnson claimed 159 wins during her 12 seasons at the helm for the Mustangs. She guided the program to a Lone Star Conference championship in 2013 which was the first of three consecutive NCAA Division II regional tournament appearances.

But Johnson’s true legacy lies in the complete program she installed at Midwestern State. Each of the 37 women who exhausted 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. All remain value members of the program. As she said, “Tradition never graduates.”

Greatly respected amongst her peers, Johnson earned Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year honors after leading the Mustangs to a nine-game improvement closing the 2011-12 season with 19 wins.

The wave continued in 2012-13 as MSU surged to 26 wins on the way to an LSC title and on to the NCAA Division II South Central Region finals culminating in a Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ Small College Coach Year award for Johnson. The Mustangs returned to NCAA postseason the next two seasons.

It was an extension of Johnson’s storybook collegiate playing career as a standout at Texas Tech University from 1991-95.

She helped the Red Raiders to four-straight Southwest Conference championships, four NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearances and a national championship in 1993.

After completing her prep career, Johnson went on to earn All-Southwest Conference honors on three occasions and all-region honors once at Texas Tech.

In her time in Lubbock, she was voted to the all-time Lady Raider team at the final Southwest Conference tournament and became the school’s all-time leader in 3-point percentage.

In addition to her success at Tech, Johnson will always be the Southwest Conference’s most prolific 3-point shooter and was the first-ever recipient of the Jannine McHaney Award, an honor given by Texas Tech to the female athlete who most exemplifies classroom excellence, courage on the court and a commitment to excellence.

Johnson 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.

She began her coaching career at Texas State University serving nine seasons as an assistant for Suzanne Fox, then moved on to North Texas for a year before arriving at Midwestern State.

A native of west Texas, Johnson hails from Kelton and was born in nearby Shamrock. An accomplished prep athlete, she earned two letters at Nazareth High School where she helped the Swiftettes to a pair of Texas Class A state championships.

Johnson is survived by her parents Agatha and Dean Johnson; her sister Leslie Henderson and husband Paul; her brother Nick Johnson and wife Lisa; and nieces and nephews Mikayla, Camarie and Dalton Henderson and Miller and Leah Noel Johnson; and Reagan Foster, with whom she shared her life.

A memorial celebrating the life of Noel Johnson will be held on Saturday, June 20 at D.L Ligon Coliseum beginning at 1 p.m.


Dr. Suzanne Shipley, Midwestern State President
“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.”

Dr. Jesse Rogers, Midwestern State President (2001-15)
“Noel will be remembered for her tenacity and fighting spirit and for her achievement as one of the best women’s basketball point guards that Texas ever produced.  She made a mark upon the lives of her players and the Wichita Falls community, and her loss brings great sadness to us all.”

Kyle Williams, Midwestern State Athletic Director
“What I will always remember about my dear friend Noel Johnson is her consistency with how she treated people.  Noel was the epitome of a player’s coach.  Her love for her team was so evident not only on the court, but more impressive to me was the way she handled her student athletes off the court.  Whether that meant a study hall on Sunday night or meeting her students at one of the non-profit community partners, Coach Johnson portrayed true leadership in molding female athletes for their future as evidenced in her 90-percent graduation rates.  Noel leaves a significant mark on the Midwestern State’s women’s basketball program.  Thank you, Coach J.”

Charlie Carr, Midwestern State Athletic Director (2007-15)
“College Athletics and the Midwestern family lost a special person today. Noel was the epitome of what you admire in any coach. Always the consummate competitor, she constantly put our program first and touched every young lady that played for her in a meaningful way. We will miss an amazing person.”

Kirby Hocutt, Texas Tech Director of Athletics
“We’ve lost a great member of our Texas Tech family. Noel’s affinity for the school and the Lady Raiders was genuine. She was a great player but an even better person. She brought the same fight she had on the court to her battle with cancer. She will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.”

Marsha Sharp, Texas Tech Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach (1982-2006)
“I am heartbroken today. Noel Johnson is one of the most beloved players in the history of Texas Tech women’s basketball. Our hearts and prayers go out to Noel’s family, friends and the entire Midwestern family.  Rest In Peace number 23.”

Rodney Allison, Director of Double T Varsity Club
“Noel was the ultimate warrior while she played at Texas Tech and continued to be a warrior throughout her fight with this nasty illness. She was a great Red Raider and we will always cherish her contributions to Lady Raider Basketball not only as a player but also her great leadership. She will be sorely missed.”

Krista Gerlich, UTA Head Coach and teammate at Texas Tech University
“I’m heartbroken as I can imagine all of Midwestern is as well, not to mention the entire women’s basketball world.  Noel was the most loyal friend I had. As fierce as she was on the court, she was just as fierce as a friend. Would protect, encourage, love with everything she had. 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. But also, each of us wanted to beat the other as that’s the type of competitors we were. I loved our calls and texts during 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.”

Christopher Reay, Midwestern State assistant women’s basketball coach
“Coach J is the most influential person I have had the privilege to know. Working for her the past 10 years has been a true blessing. Starting out she was my mentor, but became one of my best friends and eventually my family. She embodied everything you would want a coach to be. She was highly competitive in all aspects of her life. She led with the compassion to help her players, staff, friends, and colleagues be the best people they can be. Her loyalty was unquestioned and her desire to make those who played for her the best people they could was unmatched. These words are just a glimpse to how truly amazing she was. It was truly an honor to be around her.

My thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, teammates, and players. Coach J was a true treasure and will be missed but her legacy will never fade. #NoelStrong.”

Lisa (Hampton) Bartek, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2011-15)
“I’ve told so many people that I consider the women’s basketball program at MSU that I played for and with to be an anomaly in the sense that all members have graduated in 5 years with no transfers. And that can be contributed almost entirely to the sense of commitment and purpose that Coach J instilled in us. She never made any goal seem like it was impossible and that led to us playing for two conference championships in my four years. But she also cared about what happened to each of us outside of basketball; she knew our families, our friends, our boyfriends, ect., and cared about our issues and our struggles. She expected each of us to carry ourselves with a sense of class and professionalism on and off the court and I think that kept myself and my teammates focused on our goals.”

Savannah Carver, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2008-12)
“She demanded the best of each of us and held us accountable to all aspects of being a student-athlete.”

Kirsti Degelia, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2010-14)
“Coach J always pushed us to be the best we could be on the court, in class and in everything that we did. Her door was always open and we could go talk to her whenever and about whatever we needed help with. I know that I am not just speaking for myself when I say that Coach J was much more than just a basketball coach.”

Shatoia Gober, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2011-15)
“Coach J helped me in so many ways that it’s hard to say that any one thing she did helped get me to where I am right now. It’s her passion and her willingness. She always goes beyond to make sure you’re all good and well off. She always brought that family feeling. Her passion drove me to want to be successful in my own way and her willingness to make sure was the icing on the cake. A coach who always checks up on you even after you’re done playing for them is golden. I hope every player has a coach like that, like her.”

Dianna Jones, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2011-15)
“One thing that Coach J has helped with me is to be discipline and do the details in all aspects of life whether it was school work or basketball.”

Shambreka Jones, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2012-15)
“Other than being a phenomenal coach, Coach J is also a phenomenal and very caring person off of the court. She will push you and continue to push you as long as she sees you trying and working hard no matter what it is. If there is a problem whether it was personal or on the court, she takes the time to figure it out. She will literally lose sleep over it.”

Jazman Patterson, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2008-12)
“Coach J taught me and my teammates the value of hard work and being committed to my goals. I’ll never forget her pep talk on passion, duty and burden. Thanks to her, basketball will forever be my passion.”

Cierra Thompson, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2008-12)
“The things I learned while playing for Coach J are innumerable, but I think the best thing I took from her was how to follow my passion and my heart. She is so passionate about the game of basketball, that kind of fire and passion is contagious. I found out I could do things I never thought possible while training under her at MSU. All of this fueled me to feel confident and strong while traveling around for the past couple of years. I felt anything was possible if I really wanted it. That itself is one of the best lessons.”

Skyler Warrick, Midwestern State basketball alumna (2010-14)
“Coach J was one of my biggest cheerleaders, I guess you would say. She cared about me more as a person, than a basketball player. She was always so motivating and she believed in me when I doubted myself and always gave me that encouragement to chase after my goals.

She is one of the reasons I applied to film school in New York. She knew that was something I had always dreamed of doing and encouraged me nonstop to do it. Even back when I was always walking around with a camera or sitting at my computer cutting video during down time on trips. She always wants her players to be happy and successful, not only on the basketball court, but in life as well.”

Photo Courtesy Midwestern State Athletics