I’m back. Been longer than I’d like since getting something up on the blog. Why? Potentially cause I’ve been too busy celebrating the firing of Minnesota Gophers Head Coach – Richard Pitino. Finally, he’s done. The Minnesota Golden Gophers have made their coaching change.There were a lot of exciting names being ran through the rumor mill in regards to the Gopher’s search for their next head coach. Today, they made the official announcement and the next Head Coach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball team, is….
Coaching ChangeWith names like Eric Musselman, Brian Dutcher, Ryan Saunders, and Sam Mitchell swirling around – Ben Johnson emerging from the mix seems initially like a disappointment. Most of that disappointment is likely due to the unknown. He doesn’t have the resume or recognition of the nationally known names listed, but what he does have is strong ties with Minnesota – both the University and the local High School scene. Where casual fans (admittedly including myself) immediately criticized the hire for no reason other than the quiet name, former players, fellow coaches, and those much deeper in the basketball scene have shouted their excitement from the rooftops.
Minnesota & Gopher Ties
Ben Johnson is very familiar with the University of Minnesota. He played for the Gophers from ’02-’04 and was a two-time captain. Following his playing career, he has made many stops around the NCAA as an assistant coach, including with Pitino and the Gophers from ’13-’18, but most recently with Xavier.Along with his program familiarity, the biggest assets Johnson brings to the table are his player relationships and strong ties to the local basketball scene. Johnson grew up in Minnesota and playing high school at De La Salle. He has been a part of the Minnesota high school and AAU communities for most of his life. The new coach played a huge role in keeping Amir Coffey and Daniel Oturu home and also in bringing Jordan Murphy up from Texas. Three of the best players the Gophers have had over the last eight years and Johnson had a hand in recruiting each of them.
The biggest complaint about Richard Pitino, outside of his inability to run an offense, his poor rotations, his lack of wins inside the Big Ten or on the road, and his sideline temper tantrums, was his inability to keep the top in-state recruits. Oturu and Coffey were big, but it sounds like Johnson played a bigger role in that. Minnesota has been a hotbed of high school players in recent years and continues to be, it’s time to capitalize.
Look at that 2022 in-state class! Can you think of a better time to bring in someone as beloved and locked into the MN HS community? If Johnson is able to get commitments from a few of the local four-star kids, it’d be an immediate success. From there, it will be interesting to see what he does and how he is as an in-game coach. When it comes to that though – we can’t get much worse.
College basketball is so much about recruiting. Although it may not be the most flashy hire, we need to look deeper. The in-state ties are huge and the people that know much more than I do seem to be thrilled with the hire. He’s one of us and will be easy to root for. The Minnesota Gophers made their coaching change. It’s going to be exciting to watch a young, up-and-coming coach get his shot. Hopefully, he makes the most of it.