Johnny Carter is a legend in Madison County.
Often referred to simply as “Coach,” the Madisonville graduate and 38-year coaching veteran won a state championship in his first season as coach of the Kennard High School basketball team.
He was just 23 years old.
The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame inductee led Madisonville to the playoffs several times and now announces high school football games on KMVL 1120 AM with Joey Smith.
But it’s that first year at the helm of the Kennard Tigers basketball team in 1967 that has gained him the most notoriety. He even wrote a book about it, titled “The First Season,” and is now in talks with a Hollywood producer who wants to make it into a film. When asked by a reporter who he would like to play him in the movie, Carter doesn’t answer right away. When pressed, he humbly indicates that he hasn’t given it much thought, but others have suggested Zac Efron, or maybe Finn Wittrock, the star of the new football flick “My All American.”
“It’s gotta be somebody pretty young and pretty good-looking,” he said.
The retired coach is more focused, however, on his book, and will be signing copies of it from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15, at Texas Burger in Madisonville, not far from where he coached the Mustang team for 22 years beginning in 1983.
Carter sat on the sidelines Friday night at the invitation of Head Coach Brian Thurmond as Madisonville handily defeated Hearne, 79-35.
“Coaching is a brand new ballgame now,” Carter said. “You’re trying to teach them how to be a team. When I was coaching, the good Lord had his hand on top of my head. You just don’t win a state championship your first year.”
Over 38 seasons of coaching, Carter racked up 903 wins and 241 losses. He led Kennard to three state championships, McLennan Community College to six conference championships and Madisonville to 16 playoff appearances.
He started penning “The First Season” after he heard from a former point guard who had watched “Hoosiers” five times and determined that “they’re no better than us.”
So the former coach put pen to paper – Big Chief tablets and spiral notebooks – and began reliving the experiences of that 1967 season.
“I talked to players, fans, referees … It’s about continuity, how a team comes together,” he said.
Carter recalled a time during the first year of integration at Texas high schools when he brought his team to play in Madisonville for a tournament in which they would play Snook the following day. Naturally, they would stay at his mom and dad’s house.
“The black kids asked if they could stay too,” he said. “They weren’t tokens; they were members of the team.”
He still keeps in touch with many of his former players.
“There’s a special bond between us,” he said.
Barely older than his players, Carter was hired to lead Kennard with no coaching experience.
“I had never done anything but play the game,” he said.
If a movie is in fact made, Carter said he wants it to be inspirational.
“It’s a very unique story,” he said. “That first year, I had four juniors who were going to be back next year. We came back and we won it again.”