CRAWFORD | New assistant Johnson the latest U of L loser -- 106 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | New assistant Johnson the latest U of L loser -- 106 pounds in six months

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Kenny Johnson, before and after. Left, the day he was hired at Louisville, right, during the team picture on Sunday. Kenny Johnson, before and after. Left, the day he was hired at Louisville, right, during the team picture on Sunday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Maybe Rick Pitino's next book should be a weight loss manual.

This past April 24, the day he was introduced as a new assistant coach at the University of Louisville, Kenny Johnson weighed 331 pounds. On media day Sunday, he weighed 225.

Don't worry about doing the math. I've already done it. That's 106 pounds in just under six months -- 179 days. How he accomplished that in just a moment.

First, a look at his motivation. This story is not new, of course. Marvin Menzies lost 40 pounds as a Pitino assistant. Chris Wallace lost 100 pounds back at Boston University, Tim Fuller lost 40, Kevin Keatts 25, Scotty Davenport 60.

"With all of these men, you could see their self-esteem rise because their physical condition was improving," Pitino told me during our discussions for his book "The One-Day Contract," due out in paperback on Tuesday, in which he talked about the principles and rationale for making sure he and his staff are in good physical condition.

Pitino had the same discussion with Johnson. He set the goal of Johnson weighing 240 by the start of practice. Johnson has flown right past that number.

"With Kenny, it's really remarkable," Pitino said. "I mean, I don't know how he did it. I didn't -- it was just him and (strength coach) Ray (Ganong) getting together. It's an amazing transformation. Everybody who sees him on the road says, 'Is that Kenny?' He just cut out sugar, cut out carbs and exercised for the first time in his life and he looks tremendous. I didn't do anything. I just said, 'Listen, you need to get in shape, because you're going to preach conditioning to these guys. Just get yourself into shape.' . . . And it wasn't a deck chair off the Queen Mary."

Johnson said Pitino didn't give him a diet to follow (I guess that kills the diet book pitch). Nor did the coach monitor or otherwise get on him about when or how to exercise. He just gave the request and the rationale. Johnson's own motivation took care of the rest.

"It's a culture that starts from the top," Johnson said. "Coach is up front about his expectation level for players and coaches, and he speaks to you about having the best-conditioned team in college basketball and not having coaches who are unwilling to do what they ask the players to do.

"He doesn't tell you the process or do anything like that," Johnson said. "It's more just identifying a plan of action. My goal was to identify a plan that was sustainable for a lifetime rather than just a short period of time."

Johnson took an analytical approach to his weight loss. He said the main culprits in his weight gain had been juice and soft drinks. He also said goodbye to desserts, red meat and processed foods. As a busy assistant coach who was always on the go, those things often fueled him.

But he had to come up with a different way of doing things.

"For me, it was a mathematical equation," Johnson said. "It was all about the caloric intake, burning more calories than I take in on a given day. And whatever piece of equipment I use or walking, or the elliptical or treadmill or whatever, just being consistently able to do that at least once or twice a day. It is a hectic schedule in this job, because you're traveling and on the road. Honestly, the challenge is just identifying a particular time. That time of day hasn't been consistent, but within that 24-hour period, I've gotten it done."

Johnson benched most bread from his diet. He's not subsisting on salad, rather, he's eating mostly chicken, fish, fruits and vegetables throughout the day. And he is one with his elliptical machine. He does an hour a day, and three times a week tries to work in a second workout.

"The first five minutes is always the hardest, no matter what day it is," Johnson said. "If you can get through the first five minutes, you can accomplish it."

He said his family has been excited and that people he knows are always asking him how he's done it. There's no real secret. Eating right and exercising. There are no gimmicks.

"Running like a deer, eating like a bird," Davenport used to say.

But you can't argue with the results. It's even become something recruits ask him about, because players he has known for years can't believe it when they see him.

"A lot of people have been surprised and shocked, but it's been a great conversation starter," Johnson said. "It gives me a great chance to talk about the culture of the program. We're about transforming people, and I can talk about what we're about, and they can look at me and see that it's all true. It's a blessing to be able to share that."

It's not The Zone or Paleo or any other of a number of diets out there. The Pitino plan, it seems, is no plan at all. Just lose it. And Johnson has.

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