Dennis Johnson refutes Bassett's claims

September 20, 2005|LARRY VAUGHT

Dennis Johnson says there's no truth to a recent allegation that his recruitment at the University of Kentucky was part of a package deal to get his older brother a scholarship and his father a job at the university.

Former UK recruiting coordinator Claude Bassett made that allegation as part of his recent affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington as part of his lawsuit against the NCAA, Southeastern Conference and UK Athletic Association.

The players and their father were not named in the affidavit, but one Lexington television station identified Dennis Johnson, a former Harrodsburg all-state player, as the star player.

Bassett alleged that then UK athletics director C.M. Newton made him recruit Derrick Johnson and then created a job for former Harrodsburg football coach and athletics director Alvis Johnson after Dennis Johnson signed with UK.


"To be honest, I really didn't read or listen that much to any of it. I saw it on the (TV) news one night," Dennis Johnson, who played two full seasons and part of a third in the National Football League, said. "This stuff is going to get ugly because he (Bassett) apparently does not want to take the blame (for NCAA violations at Kentucky)."

Bassett resigned at Kentucky when a number of NCAA rules violations were linked to him. Those violations eventually led to then head coach Hal Mumme's resignation and landed UK on NCAA probation.

Alvis Johnson is an associate athletics director at Kentucky, a job he landed several months after Dennis Johnson picked UK over Notre Dame, Florida and numerous other schools that pursued him after his Harrodsburg career that earned him national high school defensive player of the year honors in 1997.

"The night before I signed with Kentucky I went to a basketball game, but I couldn't concentrate. I had always been a Notre Dame fan. UK was a decent program. There were guys from my high school there. I also thought I might be able to help turn the program around," Johnson said. "Maybe I was selfish, but I thought mainly about where I fit into a program and if it could help me get to the professional level. I worried about where I could be a success and get an education. I finally decided Kentucky was best for me.

"No one offered to take care of me or my father. I had to work to get on the field and show I could play. If someone had been taking care of him, he would not be living in Harrodsburg still and driving to Lexington to work. Nothing has ever been about money with him. If money was an issue, there's a million ways he probably could have got more money over the years."

Dennis Johnson, who left UK after his junior season in 2001, earned all-Southeastern Conference honors at Kentucky and was a third round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals.

Alvis Johnson was head coach at Harrodsburg from 1975-1997. Dennis Johnson noted that his father had several chances to leave Harrodsburg for other coaching jobs and was also contacted about becoming commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.

"My father had a good job before he came to Kentucky. He had a lot of other job offers before I signed with Kentucky or my brother ever played at Kentucky," Dennis Johnson said. "He's well qualified for the job he has now. Anyone who knows him knows that.

"I didn't go to Kentucky because of my father. If I was that type of person, or he was, we probably could have got things from some schools. But my dad getting a job was never part of the equation for me going to Kentucky. Maybe trying to get me played a factor in recruiting my brother. There's no way I can know that. But for anybody to have said that about my father, that's a low blow."

Alvis Johnson has declined to make a statement about Bassett's allegations because of the pending lawsuit.

"My father always told me to do what I wanted to do and that he would be fine no matter what decision I made," Dennis Johnson said. "He's always been a man who works for what he gets. What coach Bassett said about him was wrong. Maybe when a person knows the end is getting near and it's all coming down on you, they just try to get all the names involved in the problem they can."

Also upset about his brother being mentioned

Dennis Johnson is also miffed that his brother had his name thrown into the fray.

"My brother always heard that stuff about he was only at Kentucky because of me," Dennis Johnson said. "But he kept fighting and he did finally get to play a lot his senior year and he did a good job. That's why he got to sign with the (Cincinnati) Bengals and go to their minicamp. Not everybody gets to do that.

"What about Louisville? They hired Jeff Brohm as quarterback coach and then eventually signed his brother, Brian Brohm. Why wouldn't Kentucky have hired my father as a coach before I ever signed to make sure they got me if that's what Kentucky was going to do? Why put my brother's name into this? He did nothing wrong."

Dennis Johnson said he intentionally avoided being involved in his brother's recruitment to discourage allegations like this.

"I never felt obligated to go to Kentucky just because my brother went there. We didn't want it to be a package deal," Dennis Johnson said. "I always admired the way Derrick took me under his wing and never got jealous of the attention I received. Could I have done that? I don't know. But he always helped me. That's why this is so unfair to him."

Dennis Johnson says he's not sure why Bassett has made these claims.

"I respect coach Bassett. He respected me and my family when he recruited me," Dennis Johnson said. "The NCAA checked all this kind of stuff when they investigated Kentucky. I just hope it doesn't distract from what the players and coaches are trying to do this year. This isn't fair to anyone."

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