New Minnesota coach is former player, assistant Ben Johnson

New Minnesota coach is former player, assistant Ben Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota has picked former player and assistant Ben Johnson to be the new head men’s basketball coach, according to a person with knowledge of the hire.

Johnson will replace Richard Pitino, who was fired after eight seasons and then took the job at New Mexico, according to the person who spoke Monday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the university had yet to make the announcement.

The 40-year-old Johnson was on staff under Pitino with the Gophers for five seasons before spending the last three years at Xavier under Travis Steele.

Johnson, a native of Minneapolis and product of the powerhouse program at DeLaSalle High School, played two seasons for the Gophers for Dan Monson after transferring from Northwestern. He has also coached at Dayton, Texas-Pan American and Northern Iowa.

Well-connected with Minnesota’s thriving prep circuit, Johnson ought to give the Gophers a boost with local recruiting that lagged under Pitino. He’ll be a first-time head coach, however, in a daunting conference stacked with long-time leaders of long-stable programs.

Minnesota finished in 10th place or lower in the Big Ten five times in Pitino’s eight years. He took the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament twice.

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