MOSES LAKE — Long before the sound of bouncing balls, squeaking sneakers and screeching whistles filled his day, John Hohman was a business man. His start was a venture detailing cars with a friend.
“I figured out that sucked,” Hohman said. “That was awful.”
Wayne Hohman, John’s father and a hall of fame basketball coach out of St. John, offered some sage advice — finish the teaching degree; cars won’t go away in two years.
John eventually returned to his hometown gymnasium and found his purpose.
“I was walking in and it was like an epiphany, truly, that’s all I can say,” he said. “It felt like, man, I need to be here. This is the place I need to be... God kind of said this is your path.”
St. John laid the foundation, racking up wins under his dad’s tutelage.
“He (Wayne) was phenomenal with the mental part of the game,” John said. “So growing up with him I was very fortunate to have a role model like him as a coach — how to manage a game, those things.”
John’s own coaching career didn’t start with much fanfare. His inaugural win, during the 1989-90 season, as the freshman girls coach at Medical Lake came by way of forfeit.
“I’m counting it.”
After a three-year stint at Warden, John moved north to Big Bend Community College where he spent 15 years as a Viking, learning and growing under head coach Mark Poth.
“Mark changed my life, literally changed my life,” John said.
John enjoyed great success on Poth’s staff, including a second-place trophy from the NWAC Tournament — Big Bend’s highest finish. The duo bonded quickly and John was given tremendous agency as an assistant coach. John’s defensive mindset was what set him apart in Poth’s mind.
“I think initially defensively we were pretty much on the same page of our philosophies when we met, which is quite unique with the system we were playing,” Poth said. “It wasn’t a typical defensive-type strategy, but we both had the same philosophy — very dedicated coach. Shortly into his tenure at Big Bend I made him pretty much our defensive coordinator.”
The on-court accolades were enjoyable, no doubt, but the bond solidified outside the lines.
“The most important thing I that I learned from him (Poth) was how to be a better parent, a better person, a better husband,” John said. “I truly owe him everything and he’s a special person, he really is. He’s got a special place in my heart.”
John can still be found in DeVries Activity Center here and there, especially when a former player is in town. The pair also hosts an annual basketball camp at Moses Lake High School.
“I think the thing that made John and I work is I think we were really student-athlete focused,” Poth said. “We cared about our student-athletes on and off the court and I think we had similar values and I think that was probably a huge part of our relationship is we prioritized I think the things that were truly important for our program and we both believed in those and I think that’s what made us a good team is we believed in a lot of the same core principles.”
John’s coaching career almost ended with the Vikings. His son Mitch was on the verge of high school and a grueling community college basketball schedule left little time to watch upcoming games. Some fortuitous timing allowed John to nab the open head coaching gig at Moses Lake High School. There, father and son would take the program to heights it hadn’t seen in decades.
In 2014, Moses Lake upset Davis of Yakima in the district semifinals to clinch a state tournament berth. Wayne, John and Mitch — three generations of Hohmans — celebrated together in the visitor’s locker room.
“Coach Hohman had a huge impact on me in high school,” said Nick Sutherland, a 2014 Moses Lake High School graduate. “He taught me and the other players how to be good men and lead a positive lifestyle. I feel honored to have played for him for four years.”
That was only the beginning.
A year later, Moses Lake was able to stun Central Valley in overtime — a game played at Mt. Spokane High School, not too far away from the Bears’ campus — to advance to the Tacoma Dome. The Chiefs gave everything in their tournament opener against eventual champion Federal Way, matching up against Washington State University commit Viont’e Daniels and 2019 NBA draftee Jalen McDaniels. Isaiah Thomas was the point guard on the 2014 and 2015 state tournament teams.
“When he (John) told me I was going to play for him one day I never thought it would be on a high school team making state title runs,” Thomas said. “He’s definitely changed the culture of the Moses Lake men’s basketball organization and created a brotherhood and winning atmosphere. His knowledge on life has only helped me grow as a man and student-athlete. Truly grateful for that geezer, he’s been coaching for about 60-plus years so all I can have is respect for his retirement decision. All love Coach. Hope you enjoy it.”
Moses Lake made its last state tournament appearance in 2017. Three trips in four years was quite the accomplishment for a public school isolated in central Washington. After hours on the bus, breaking down film and instilling fundamentals, John can reflect on his three-decade coaching odyssey and all those that helped him along the way.
“You don’t realize how fortunate you are until you look through the years and how many great people I’ve been around,” he said. “Amazing coaches that I’ve had. I’m blessed, I’ve been truly blessed. I’ve had phenomenal parent support. Amazing student-athletes that I love and I appreciate all they’ve done for me.”