The Xavier assistant returns to his home state to try to turn around the Gophers
by jake geiger, staff writer
Xavier men’s basketball Assistant Coach Ben Johnson is headed home as the new head coach at the University of Minnesota.
Johnson hopes to lead the Golden Gophers back to prominence as a tournament threat and dominate the state of Minnesota.
Johnson replaced former coach Richard Pitino after he failed to perform in the Big Ten with a 54-96 record.
He returns to Minnesota after serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater from 2013-18.
His deal is for five years and makes him the 18th head coach in program history with a $1.95 million annual base salary.
As an assistant, Johnson was a big part of recruiting current NBA players Daniel Oturu and Amir Coffey.
He also played a part in recruiting four-year letterman Gabe Kalscheur and developing Golden Gopher forward Jordan Murphy.
Murphy ended up atop the record books in Golden Gopher history, finishing second in points and first in rebounds.
Johnson came to Xavier in 2019 as an assistant coach and helped propel two top 30 recruiting classes.
Xavier also finished with a record of 51-37 under Johnson’s tenure.
The former assistant coach expressed gratitude for the new opportunity and thanked the University of Minnesota administration.
“The University of Minnesota is such a special place and has impacted me in immeasurable ways on and off the court,” Johnson said.
“I want to thank President Joan Gabel, Mark Coyle, Julie Manning and everyone involved in the search process for believing in me and trusting me to lead this historic program. I am ready to get to work,” he added.
One of Johnson’s main goals is to regain the in-state recruits.
In this NCAA Tournament, a few stars from the state of Minnesota include Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV, Texas center Jericho Sims and Wisconsin four-year starters Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers.
Johnson also wants his future Minnesota teams to have a distinct kind of player.
“You can tell Purdue players and Michigan State players. That’s going to be our goal. I want our fans to say, ‘That’s a Minnesota dude,’ Johnson said.
“We take a ton of pride in our state and our program, and we’re not going to fail.”
Johnson also played for the Golden Gophers in his last two collegiate seasons as a player after transferring from Northwestern.
At Minnesota, Johnson finished with 533 points and helped the Golden Gophers to a few tournament appearances.