WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL)— Noel Johnson arrived in Wichita Falls in 2008. Coming with the desire to make a difference in the lives of others.
Noel had already spent 11-years as an assistant coach at Texes State and North Texas, but in 2008 she would be leading her own program at Midwestern State.
At the time all we knew about who Noel was, in her playing days, she could shoot the ball, and she had won a national championship at Texas Tech.
She still holds the tech single season record for best three-point shooting percentage.
Fans at D.L. Ligon Coliseum would soon learn she was a leader.
She took over an MSU program which had just endured four straight losing seasons.
Her teams improved her first four seasons at the helm, in 2013 winning a conference championship – the first in 12 years.
Remember though, when she arrived at Midwestern State her goal was to not just win games, but to impact lives.
“How big of a heart she had. She cared about everybody she met whether she had just met them or someone she had one her team for four years. Teaching us on the court and off the court life skills,” Former Basketball player Kristi Degelia said.
And showing that caring is so inspirational.
“In my honest opinion she was one of the most positive female role models that any of us could have ever asked for as young women. It’s just so rare you encounter anyone in your lifetime who is so dedicated in helping you reach for and achieve your goals. And encourages you day after day to be true to yourself and to be a better person than you were the day before,” former basketball player Skyler Warrick said.
“Not only was she my mentor she became one of my best friends. And we treated each other like family. And i was with her ten straight years. We were together. Maybe a few days in the summer we wouldn’t see each other. We were together all the time. It’s just special to be with her,” MSU Assistant Coach Christopher Reay said.
She’d lead the Mustangs to eight conference tournaments, three NCAA tournaments and a school record 158 wins. Her last win coming on January 18 in Lawton an 82-77 win over Cameron.
Nine months earlier, Johnson had been diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.
“April second. It was in the afternoon. I think it was around two o’clock. You want to talk about your world turning upside down that’s that’s one thing that happened to me. It was very surreal. You kind of have your mind over here your body over here. So it was it was a difficult day,” Johnson said. “I think the hardest part of that day wasn’t just me realizing that I have cancer and it is advanced. There was telling my parents. You know. And that’s one thing you never ever want have to tell you folks is i have cancer at stage four and it’s metastasized.”
Noel knew her days were limited. She also knew she wasn’t finished being a positive influence on the lives of others.
“With God you know that’s something I’ve had to really really dig in with that with god and talk to him. And i know i still have work to do but it’s scary. It’s a reality that you don’t necessarily want to face. But i’m gonna be honest. I’m glad I did,” Johnson said.
Through her battle with cancer, Noel learned just how many lives she’s touched and how much she was loved.
That’s been. Very humbling as a human. The amount of coaches that i know just through the coaching tree. The amount of people that knew me as a player. In high school and at Texas Tech. This community I still don’t have words. It’s amazing,” Johnson said
WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Midwestern State women’s basketball head coach Noel Johnson was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer on April 2, 2019. Over a year later, Johnson died on Tuesday morning surrounded by her loved ones at Hospice of Wichita Falls.
Johnson became the head coach of the Mustangs back in 2008. Over her 12 years, the MSU women’s basketball team reached the NCAA tournaments three times and won the Lone Star Conference tournament for the first time in program history in 2012. Johnson was named LSC coach of the year that season.
Overall, the Mustangs have posted a 158-164 (.491) record under Johnson’s guidance, making her the winningest coach in program history.
This past year, Johnson stepped away from the team for its final ten games to focus on her battle with cancer.
Before her time at Midwestern State, Johnson was an assistant coach at the University of North Texas as well as Texas State University.
Noel’s playing career consisted of four years at Texas Tech from 1991-95, where the Red Raiders won a national championship in 1993. She was named to the Texas Tech Hall of Honor in 2005.
Noel Johnson was 47 years old.
Services will be held on Saturday, June 20 at D.L. Ligon Coliseum beginning at 1 p.m.
Her death was announced Tuesday morning in her Facebook group Noel’s Cancer Journey.