Banned Ivan Johnson a 'nice fellow and family man' off the court, says TNT official
“If you don’t know him and he does not know you, he will not speak to you. But once he gets to know you, he’ll even be the first one to greet you,” says TNT team manager Virgil Vilavicencio of Ivan Johnson. PBA Images

IMPORT Ivan Johnson may be controversial, but a Tropang TNT official insisted there’s a soft spot in him which people don’t see.

“He’s actually a nice fellow, a family man,” said TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio when asked to describe the temperamental former Atlanta Hawk, who was handed a life ban that was later downgraded to a season-long suspension by PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa.

“When he’s off the court, family man siya. He thinks of his family first.”

And that was none more obvious on Tuesday afternoon when Johnson brought along wife Jessica and kids Ian (3) and Ivan Jr. (2) when he voluntarily appeared before Narvasa at the league office in Libis, Quezon City to apologize for his action that led to his ejection – and ban – during a game against Meralco last Saturday.

“If you don’t know him and he does not know you, he will not speak to you. But once he gets to know you, he’ll even be the first one to greet you,” added Vilavicencio, who accompanied the Tropang TNT import during the meeting that took only 30 minutes to finish.

[See Narvasa downgrades Johnson life ban to season-long suspension]

The amiable team manager admitted it was a risk on the part of the franchise to bring back the import who led the Texters all the way to the championship of the mid-season conference last year, given his multiple verbal altercations with several coaches and players like Yeng Guiao, Alex Compton, Paul Lee, and Calvin Abueva.

But his talent and competitiveness were enough to convince the coaching staff to give Johnson another tour of duty with the telecommunication franchise.

“We won a championship with him, that’s the guarantee naman with him around,” Villavicencio stressed.

Villavicencio also said former Texter Willie Miller, veteran Danny Seigle, and rookie Mo Tautuaa were among the players close to the 31-year-old native of San Antonio, Texas.

“Willie is like a little brother to him, while Danny S even accompanied him to Balesin Island Resort after we won the championship last year,” said Villavicencio.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos