a familiar face in minnesota basketball returns to dinkytown.
The Gophers have hired Ben Johnson as a replacement for Richard Pitino to coach the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team, the university announced Monday.
johnson is no stranger to squirrels or to the state of minnesota. Here are 10 things to know about the new men’s basketball leader:
1. a head coach for the first time
johnson has been in college basketball a lot, but has never been a head coach. He has been an assistant at Xavier since 2018 after leaving an assistant job with the Gophers under Pitino from 2013-2018. Before that, Johnson made stops as an assistant in Nebraska (2012-13), Northern Iowa (2008-2012), and Texas-Pan America (2006-2008). Johnson first served as a graduate assistant at the University of Dayton after graduating from Minnesota with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
2. the young man
Johnson, 40, is older than Pitino, but the Gophers will still have the youngest coach in the Big 10. The next closest is newly hired Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry, 44. the average age of the top ten coaches is approximately 52 years old.
3. a strong recruiter
Johnson may not be the oldest or the most experienced, but he more than makes up for it with his ability to build relationships. He is well known in Minnesota basketball recruiting circles and has a strong reputation among high school coaches in the metro area. he has drafted the state in each of his last four stops as an assistant coach.
4. a strong minnesota recruiting resume
Served as the lead recruiter for some recognizable names in Minnesota. The two most prominent are Daniel Oturu (Cretin-Derham Hall) and Amir Coffey (Hopkins), both in the Los Angeles Clippers organization. Johnson was also the lead recruiter for Gabe Kalscheur (Delasalle), Michael Hurt (Rochester John Marshall), and Jarvis Johnson (Delasalle).
5. a proven out-of-state recruiter of quality talent
johnson has also shown his ability to source talent from outside his home state. During his time with Minnesota, he landed former gopher Jordan Murphy (San Antonio, Texas), a current Iowa Wolves player who finished his college career ranked second all-time in Big Ten history with 1,307 rebounds in his career. For Xavier, Johnson successfully recruited Kyky Tandy (Hopkinsville, Ky.), Colby Jones (Birmingham, Ala.), and Zach Freemantle (Oradell, N.J.). 247 sports rated tandy a 4-star prospect, and rivals did the same for jones.
6. a high school star from minnesota
johnson helped delasalle win two state championships in high school about two decades ago. As a multi-sport athlete, Johnson received first-team all-state honors twice in basketball and football. Johnson scored more than 2,200 points over the course of his high school basketball career. For his success in high school, college, and as a coach, Johnson was inducted into the Delasalle Hall of Fame in 2016.
7. a disciple of dave thorson
johnson played for former delalalle manager dave thorson in the late 1990s, just as thorson was beginning his dynasty. Thorson won nine state championships during his time with the Islanders. He left after 23 years to become an assistant coach at Drake. Thorson is now in his third season as an assistant at Colorado State. He won’t be surprised if he ends up joining Johnson’s staff.
8. a gopher leader
johnson played two years in the northwest before transferring home to minnesota, where he served as captain twice. he started 98 of 119 games (60 starts for the Northwest and 29 for the Gophers). he averaged a .423 field goal percentage during his four-year career.
9th alum pulley howard
johnson spent some time playing for howard pulley in high school, now one of the best aau programs in minnesota. Some notable Howard Pulley alumni include Tyus and Tre Jones, Kris Humphries, and Royce White.
10. member of the northwestern coaching team
During Johnson’s first year at Northwestern in 1999-2000, he found himself on the roster with two future Division I men’s basketball coaches. tavaras hardy now leads loyola (md.) and steve lepore is an assistant for eastern kentucky.