Earlham coach steps down

More news about: Earlham
Melissa Johnson hoped to return to Earlham's sidelines after a three-year absence but "a major setback" in her health forced her to resign on Monday.
Earlham College athletics photo

Earlham College announced that Melissa Johnson has stepped down as the Quakers' head women’s basketball coach after a setback to her recovery from multiple illnesses.

“It’s with a heavy heart that I announce Melissa Johnson will not be returning to Earlham as our head women’s basketball coach,” athletic director Mike Bergum said. “We would like to thank everyone who has supported and continue to support the Johnson family through these trying times.”

Last month Earlham announced that Johnson had recovered from a three-year long battle with life-threatening health issues and would return to her place on the Quakers' sidelines. Johnson's battle began with a routine hysterectomy in March of 2014 that turned into chronic pancreatitis which led to a host of other problems. In total, Johnson has had all of or parts of 13 organs removed along with spending more than 600 days in the hospital.

“Unfortunately, I have had a major setback with my health in the past few weeks that will require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, and it is with deep sadness that I must step down as head women’s basketball coach,” Johnson said in the college's release on Monday. “After consultation with my team of medical doctors, it has been determined that my health will not enable me to fully function as the head coach. This difficult decision had to be made for the good of myself, the good of my family, and the good of the program as it is time for the College to move forward."

Johnson is appreciative of the support she has received from the campus community during her attempted comeback to coaching.

“I cannot thank Earlham enough for supporting me during these difficult few years as I have fought to stay alive,” said Johnson. “My deepest appreciation goes to the athletics department, our administration, our faculty and staff, and the greater Richmond community for their unwavering support for myself and the women’s basketball program. It has been an honor to be a part of the Earlham community and I thank everyone for the opportunity to have done so."

Johnson, a 2003 graduate of the college, served as Earlham's head coach for three seasons from 2011-2014. During her last season as head coach, Johnson led the Quakers to a 12-13 overall record — the most wins in a season since the 2002-03 campaign. Earlham finished 8-10 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) and narrowly missed the HCAC Tournament on tiebreakers.

Kevin Hayden coached the Quakers on an interim basis last season. Earlham finished 9-16, 6-12 in the HCAC. A search for a new head coach will begin immediately.