MINNEAPOLIS — Ben Johnson arrived at Minnesota athletic director Mark Coyle’s home already dressed for the job he was there to interview for.
Johnson wore a Gophers pullover, making a robust first impression. His first job as head coach of the lads’s basketball workforce can be to steer extra Minnesota children to placed on that maroon and gold.
“We have now nice highschool coaches, nice AAU coaches and children which have a great really feel and know learn how to play basketball, so we’ve obtained to do our job inside the state to maintain these guys dwelling,” mentioned Johnson, who spoke at a socially distanced information convention on the workforce’s apply court docket on Tuesday, two days after he met with Coyle and college president Joan Gabel to current his imaginative and prescient for this system was beforehand a part of as a participant and an assistant.
The 40-year-old Johnson was raised in Minneapolis, performed for powerhouse DeLaSalle Excessive College and spent two seasons at Northwestern earlier than transferring to the Gophers in 2001. His teaching profession took him from Dayton to Texas-Pan American to Northern Iowa to Nebraska to Minnesota, the place he was on Richard Pitino’s employees for 5 years. He left for Xavier, the place he spent the final three seasons.
When Pitino was fired final week with a 54-96 document in Massive Ten play, Johnson rapidly discovered himself on Coyle’s brief listing of potential replacements regardless of by no means being a head coach earlier than.
“Each child inside the state, similar to me, they have to be wanting ahead to in the future taking part in at Williams Enviornment. They should sit up for making an attempt to turn into a Gopher and creating that power and enthusiasm,” Johnson mentioned.
Over 5 years at his put up, Coyle has grown impatient with the shortage of traction this system has had throughout a time when the highschool expertise within the state has by no means been larger.
Positive, the very best native recruits went to vacation spot packages like Duke or Gonzaga. Nonetheless, Colorado (McKinley Wright IV), Texas (Jericho Sims) and Wisconsin (Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers) have been among the many groups on this season’s NCAA Match with standout seniors from Minnesota.
“We glance across the area and the variety of children that aren’t right here. We’re going to get them right here,” mentioned Coyle, who additionally had Brian Dutcher (San Diego State), Craig Smith (Utah State), Dennis Gates (Cleveland State) and Ben Jacobson (Northern Iowa) amongst others on his radar.
Pitino had some key in-state gamers, in fact. Amir Coffey and Daniel Oturu now play for the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers,and Johnson was a main cause why they selected to remain dwelling. Capturing guard Gabe Kalscheur, the present workforce’s greatest defender, is one other homegrown participant.
With the Musketeers, Johnson additionally helped head coach Travis Steele signal consecutive top-30 recruiting lessons the final two years.
“I’m not anxious in regards to the in-game stuff,” Coyle mentioned “He is aware of learn how to ‘X’ and ‘O’ with anyone. He’ll discover ways to do the timeouts. He’ll encompass himself with a terrific employees.”
Ben Johnson says the most important key to recruiting in-state expertise is consistency.
— FOX Sports activities North (@fsnorth) March 23, 2021
Johnson, who has a $1.95 million annual base wage and a five-year contract, picked persistence when requested what he believes his biggest preliminary problem can be. He named former Nebraska coach Tim Miles, Jacobson, Steele, Pitino amongst his many mentors. He then zeroed in on Michigan State’s Tom Izzo (26 seasons) and Purdue’s Matt Painter (16 seasons) as function fashions for identification and stability.
“You’ll be able to inform Purdue gamers and Michigan State gamers. That’s going to be our objective. I would like our followers to say, ‘That’s a Minnesota dude,’’ Johnson mentioned. ”We take a ton of pleasure in our state and our program, and we’re not going to fail.”
Johnson additionally joins the athletic division at a time when each different head coach of Gophers sports activities is white. In a report revealed two weeks by the Star Tribune, Minnesota was discovered to be the one present Massive Ten establishment with out a college president, athletic director or head coach of shade.
Traditionally, Gophers hoops has been among the many Massive Ten leaders in that space. Since Wisconsin made Invoice Cofield the convention’s first Black head males’s basketball coach in 1976, Michigan (Juwan Howard, Tommy Amaker and Brian Ellerbe) and Minnesota (Johnson, Tubby Smith and Clem Haskins) are the one packages who’ve had greater than two.
Rutgers has had three Black head coaches over that point, with Eddie Jordan the newest, however has solely been within the Massive Ten since 2014. 4 groups have by no means had one. Excluding interim replacements, Johnson’s first yr will mark the twenty second for the Gophers with Black management within the 46 seasons since Cofield’s landmark rent. The Wolverines can be subsequent with 13.
“Guys like myself haven’t been afforded these alternatives previously. That’s the elephant within the room, proper? Our management has stepped up and has offered this platform for myself. Now it’s my job to do the very best I can, and hopefully I can open doorways for the subsequent man,” Johnson mentioned. “I’ve lots of pals which are very succesful coaches. I used to be lucky there was lots of issues that fell into place to place me on this place right now, and I’m humbled by that, and I notice that. There’s lots of guys that may very well be up right here. I get that. I don’t assume I’m a man that thinks I’ve all of the solutions, however I do know I’m the suitable man for this job.”