The Gophers are expected to hire former Minnesota player and assistant Ben Johnson as their next head coach, according to Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello. Johnson spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach at Xavier.
The University of Minnesota confirmed this news through an official release on Monday afternoon. Johnson has agreed to a five-year contract, pending the completion of a background check and Board of Regents approval.
“Ben is a proven coach who is ready to lead his own program,” Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle said in a statement. “He has earned this opportunity and is a tremendous teacher, recruiter and relationship builder. I am thrilled for him to lead his alma mater, and I am excited for the future of our men’s basketball program.”
Coyle clearly valued recruiting and in-state ties during the hiring process. Johnson, a DeLaSalle High School alum, played for the Gophers from 2002-2004. He was also an assistant coach under Richard Pitino for five years from 2013-18. His work on the recruiting trail helped the program secure notable players like Amir Coffey and Daniel Oturu.
Coffey and Oturu already tweeted positive messages about Minnesota’s next head coach:
Best thing I’ve read in a while. Major reason why i put that maroon and gold on https://t.co/miEtMsF8yZ
— GTM DAN (@oturu65) March 22, 2021
Great hire Minnesota Gopher ball is in good hands!
— Amir Coffey (@coffeyshop_) March 22, 2021
For years, Johnson has fostered positive relationships with coaches on the local basketball scene. He understands this recruiting landscape and can help Minnesota elevate its local footprint. Coyle has repeatedly stressed the importance of landing in-state talent. By hiring Johnson, the Gophers instantly have a presence in the Twin Cities basketball community.
The Coaching Staff
Moving forward, it will be fascinating to see who Johnson targets as assistants. There is a chance current assistant coach Ed Conroy could return. Johnson worked with Conroy during his previous stint in Minnesota.
While putting together his staff, he will likely value experience. Over the past 14 years, Johnson worked as an assistant coach for the University of Texas-Pan American, Northern Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and Xavier. However, he has never been a head coach. That makes hiring a solid staff even more important.
Johnson might not be the flashy hire many expected, but his knowledge of the basketball scene is extremely important. He is well-respected by people across the country and has a strong passion for the program. Now, Johnson will have an opportunity to take Minnesota basketball to new heights through strong recruiting and player development.