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PROFILE: Johnson boys basketball coach Chris Guthrie still finds joy in working with the next generation
Chris Guthrie
Johnson boys basketball coach Chris Guthrie works with players during practice Jan. 20, 2022 in Oakwood.

Chris Guthrie has adapted to all the changes in basketball with a smile. 

Frankly, it’s a much different game than when he got into the coaching profession after playing in college at the University of North Georgia in the 1980s.

Now the boys coach at Johnson High, the veteran leader of programs in Northeast Georgia during a career spanning more than 35 years has seen constant evolution in the game. 

Even though the Knights (1-19) have experienced their struggles this season, it doesn’t take away from his love and respect for the game. 

Guthrie, 58, sees his role similar to what he accomplished during his nearly 30 years at Lumpkin County High: help young people become better future members of society and the work force. 

“The reason I like it now is the relationships with the kids,” he said. “It keeps me young. Hopefully, you have a positive impact on them and teach them some things that will help them for the rest of their lives.

“You have to enjoy kids. If you can’t enjoy those guys, as goofy as they are, and you can’t laugh at it, most of the time you will be miserable.”

One thing that has always captivated Guthrie about basketball is the nuance involved. 

A lot has changed since his own playing career at the University of North Georgia, after the Florida native moved to Blairsville for his senior year of high school at Union County. 

After retiring from Lumpkin County High, Guthrie took some time away to enjoy watching his own kids play. 

“I really enjoyed that time being around them and being with their friends,” Guthrie said. “It was much more relaxed and fun. School ball is fun, but it’s stressful and tough.”

Once they were done playing, the pull was strong to get back on the sidelines in an official capacity. 

Before arriving at Johnson, Guthrie spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Chestatee High. 

Now that Guthrie has coached for so long and has shared his love for the game, it’s hard to imagine he could have ever done something else. 

When still in school, Guthrie was advised by a counselor to pursue a future in teaching and coaching basketball. 

“I loved basketball and it made sense to me,” Guthrie said.

That decision has worked out remarkably well. 

Guthrie has tried to stay on top of the many changes to the game over the years: mainly, the speed at which it is played. 

Now focused on an outside-in approach, modern basketball philosophy puts an emphasis on getting the ball inside and as close to the basket, as possible, for shots. 

That’s vastly different than when Guthrie was coming up. In those days, it was the norm to kick the ball back outside for open jump shots. 

A lot of that, Guthrie said, has to do with having the 3-point line. 

“It has made the game much faster,” he said. “Teams play so much faster now because that 3-point line makes team want to get that shot up. There is more pressure and shorter possessions. That’s part of the game right now. It makes it harder for a big (man) to develop some really good post moves.” 

For the Knights, the 2022 regular season wrapped up Friday with a loss to Apalachee. 

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