Ex-Hillhouse hoop standout Kaseem Johnson named head boys basketball coach at Amistad

Another member of the Hillhouse boys basketball coaching fraternity has landed a varsity head coaching job.

And he remains in the Elm City.

Kaseem Johnson, a former standout player and assistant with the Academics, has taken over as head coach at Amistad in New Haven. This is the first head position for Johnson, 35, who graduated from Hillhouse in 2004.

“These jobs don't come up in areas like this,” Johnson said. “If I'm going to coach, it's going to be now.”

Johnson replaces Ryan Ott, who resigned in May after 10 seasons. Johnson was officially tabbed last week.

Johnson is in his fourth year as the dean of students at Amistad, an Achievement First school. He spent 10 seasons as an assistant at his alma mater, Hillhouse. His final final season was in 2019-20.

He took a couple of seasons off — he has two young daughters — but never lost the itch to coach.

“I think he will do well there, help the program go to another level,” Hillhouse coach Renard Sutton said. “He did an excellent job for me. I'm happy to see he is on his way to running his own program.”

Ty Sullivan, who came from Hillhouse’s coaching tree — and was also a standout former player — already owns an SCC championship at West Haven. Johnson was an assistant for three state championships at Hillhosue (2013, 2016 and 2017).

Amistad has some pedigree. Ott was able to take the Wolves to the CIAC Division III state championship game in 2019. Amistad did not begin playing varsity basketball until the 2009-10 season.

Amistad went 13-7 during the 2021-22 regular season and advanced to the second round of the Division II state tournament, losing to eventual champion Bristol Central, the state’s No. 1 team

“Coach Ott did an excellent job,” Johnson said. “I want to keep building the culture of commitment in the classroom and the community and continue to build a program of productive young men.”

Johnson is still looking for four games to fill his schedule. It's already a difficult one with Bloomfield, the reigning Division IV state champion, and Kolbe Cathedral, the Division III finalist last season, along with Bassick, Prince Tech and Capital Prep on the slate.

Of course, Johnson would like to see Amistad, an independent program, land in a conference someday, preferably the SCC. The only SCC team on the schedule for this coming season so far is Branford.

In addition to building his own program, the goal for season one is clear.

“My hope is to win more games than last year,” Johnson said.

joseph.morelli@hearstmediact.com; @nhrJoeMorelli