Nothing but Net

Torino Johnson Steps Down After 10 Seasons as Pali High Girls Hoops Coach

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

There are no regrets for Torino Johnson, who has stepped down as head coach of the Palisades High girls basketball program after 10 seasons.

While fulfilling his annual camp duties at Michael Jordan Flight School last Wednesday afternoon, Johnson confirmed that he will be joining the women’s basketball staff at Cal State Los Angeles as an assistant under head coach Cheryl Miller.

“I’m so grateful to the Palisades community and the booster club, Charlotte Atlas who hired me and all of the families that have come through our program,” Johnson told the Palisadian-Post. “There are big things going on in my life, a lot of different projects, and I’m very excited about this new opportunity.”

Johnson took the Dolphins’ program to new heights, racking up 203 victories against 123 defeats and piloting Palisades to four City Section championships: back-to-back Division II titles in 2011-12 and back-to-back Open Division crowns in 2015-16.

Torino Johnson, shown instructing guard Kayla Williams, notched his 200th victory at Westchester in February.
Photo: Steve Galluzzo

In March, the Dolphins reached their third straight Open Division final but lost to Fairfax by two points in overtime.

Under Johnson’s guidance Palisades posted a stellar 92-28 record in Western League play and won four league titles. He earned the City Coach of the Year Award four times and was name Division I State Coach of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports in 2016. He also grew the Dolphins’ own Palisades Beach Invitational into one of the best high school tournaments in California.

“None of my accomplishments would’ve been possible without the help of others,” Johnson added. “The credit goes to George Raveling, Gary Colson, Jamallh Clark, Randy Aguirre, Jerry West, Ron Adams, Chip Engelland, Kevin Lorick, Metta World Peace, Lisa Saxon, James Paleno, Sheldon Crowley, the Palisades Booster Club, my family, all of my players and all of my coaches. I’m thankful to all the  people who helped me build the program like the maintenance crew that kept our gym clean and all the programs that supported our tournament throughout the years.”

The decision to leave a program he poured his heart and soul into was a difficult one, but Johnson felt the time was right.

“Walking away from all of that wasn’t easy, but I’m a growth-oriented person and this is a chance to work with one of the greatest basketball minds ever. Cheryl Miller is a Hall-of-Famer and I’m looking forward to adding value to Cal State LA.”      

Miller is an icon in women’s basketball, winning two NCAA titles at USC and leading the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team to the gold medal. Before taking over at Cal State LA, she coached at USC, the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA and Langston University in Oklahoma and was a sideline reporter for 17 years with TNT. A four-time high school All-American at Riverside Poly, she once scored 105 points in a game.

Johnson not only made a difference at Pali High, but in the summer of 2015 he was hired to head the Los Angeles sector of USA Basketball’s Youth Development program. He organized Saturday pick-up games through an endeavor called “Open Court LA and coached USA Basketball’s U16 girls team.

“The program was the first of its kind and I was honored to be able to host it at Palisades,” Johnson said.       

Palisades has posted the job opening on its school website and is accepting applications to fill the position.