Gophers basketball to hire Ben Johnson as new basketball coach

Ben Johnson returns to his alma mater to become the next head coach of the Gophers’ men’s basketball team.

Athletic Director Mark Coyle addresses the Board of Regents in regards to a contract extension signed by head football coach P.J. Fleck at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. The deal, signed by Fleck last week, extends his contract through the 2026 season and will increase his base salary to $4.6 million.

Emily Urfer

Athletic Director Mark Coyle addresses the Board of Regents in regards to a contract extension signed by head football coach P.J. Fleck at the McNamara Alumni Center on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. The deal, signed by Fleck last week, extends his contract through the 2026 season and will increase his base salary to $4.6 million.

AJ Condon, Sports Reporter

ESPN Insider Jeff Borzello broke the news Monday that University of Minnesota athletics director Mark Coyle is expected to hire Xavier assistant coach Ben Johnson.

A two-time captain of the Gophers, Johnson returned to his alma mater in 2013 as an assistant coach. He later joined the Xavier coaching staff in 2018 after serving five years under former Gophers head coach Richard Pitino. This will be his first opportunity in a head coaching position.

“Ben is a proven coach who is ready to lead his own program,” Minnesota athletics director Mark Coyle said in a statement. “He has earned this opportunity and is a tremendous teacher, recruiter and relationship builder. I am thrilled for him to lead his alma mater, and I am excited for the future of our men’s basketball program.”

Johnson will jump into a short-handed Gophers team who has seen three players already enter the transfer portal.

Johnson has plenty of Minnesota ties which is expected to help recruiting instate, something the U stressed in its coaching search and Pitino faced criticism for not doing enough of. After playing, graduating and coaching for the Gophers, he should easily be able to relate to high schoolers growing up in Minnesota.

“To have someone like Ben Johnson leading this program – an ambassador for our University who grew up here, went to school here and knows what the University is all about – is tremendous, for our basketball program and our institution,” U president Joan Gabel said in a statement. “Like so many Minnesotans, I’m excited to welcome Ben home and look forward to our team’s success under his leadership.”

Johnson played a big role in the recruitment of former Gophers’ guard Amir Coffey, who is currently in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“The University of Minnesota is such a special place and has impacted me in immeasurable ways on and off the court,” Johnson said in a statement. “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.”

This is a breaking news report. More information will be added as it becomes available.