Minnesota brings a former Golden Gopher home to head its men’s basketball program in Ben Johnson

Ben Johnson (courtesy Xavier Athletics)

3/22/2021

University of Minnesota Athletics Director Mark Coyle announced today that Ben Johnson has been named head men’s basketball coach at the University of Minnesota. The University and Johnson have agreed to a five-year term, pending the completion of a background check and Board of Regents approval. Johnson, 40, is Minnesota’s 18th head coach in program history. 

Johnson, who graduated from Minnesota in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, returns to his alma mater after spending three seasons at Xavier as an assistant coach. Johnson previously served as an assistant coach at Minnesota from 2013-18 and was a two-time captain during his playing career for the Gophers.

“Ben is a proven coach who is ready to lead his own program,” said Coyle. “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.”

“Athletics is such an inviting “front porch” for so much of the great work we do here at the University. Few programs are more visible or closely followed than Gopher men’s basketball,” said University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel. “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. Like so many Minnesotans, I’m excited to welcome Ben home and look forward to our team’s success under his leadership.” 

Johnson helped lead Xavier to consecutive top-30 recruiting classes in 2019 and 2020 and the Musketeers posted a collective record of 51-37 in three seasons with him on the bench.

“The University of Minnesota is such a special place and has impacted me in immeasurable ways on and off the court,” said Johnson. “I want to thank President Joan Gabel, Mark CoyleJulie 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.”

In his previous stint at Minnesota, Johnson helped recruit local standouts and current members of the Los Angeles Clippers organization Daniel Oturu and Amir Coffey to the Gophers. He also recruited current Gopher Gabe Kalscheur to the Maroon and Gold. Johnson was instrumental in recruiting and developing Jordan Murphy, who finished his career atop the Gopher record books in rebounds (1,307), free throws made (460), free throws attempted (698) and second in scoring (1,802 points). 

Prior to returning to Minnesota in 2013, he spent one season as an assistant coach under Tim Miles at the University of Nebraska. While with the Huskers, Johnson assisted in all-day-to-day basketball-related duties while also serving as recruiting coordinator. Johnson also led the development of Nebraska’s backcourt players.

Johnson spent 2008-12 as an assistant coach at Northern Iowa. The Panthers went a combined 93-77 in that timeframe, winning at least 20 games in all four years. Northern Iowa reached postseason play in all four years and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2009-10. That year, UNI won a school-record 30 games and upset top-seeded Kansas in the second round.During his tenure at UNI, the Panthers boasted three first-team All-MVC selections, including 2010 Missouri Valley Conference MVP Adam Koch in 2010. Four players were named to the MVC All-Freshmen or All-Newcomer teams, including a pair in 2011-12.

Prior to his stay at Northern Iowa, Johnson served as an assistant coach for two seasons at the University of Texas-Pan American. He was heavily involved in recruiting, worked with the Broncos perimeter players and coordinated UTPA’s summer camps.

Johnson’s coaching career began at the University of Dayton, where he served as a graduate assistant during the 2005-06 season.

Johnson started his collegiate playing career at Northwestern and played two seasons before returning to the Twin Cities to finish his career. He finished with 533 points in 59 games in Maroon and Gold and scored a total of 1,202 career points between the two Big Ten Conference institutions.

The Minneapolis native enjoyed a standout prep career, leading DeLaSalle High School to a pair of state championships. He was a two-time first-team all-state selection in both football and basketball, and as a senior, was named a Street & Smith All-American, as well as an honorable mention Nike All-American.

He was listed as the 60th-best basketball player in the country by Bob Gibbons in his senior season, totaling more than 2,200 points during his high school career. Johnson also was listed on Tom Lemming’s High School Football All-American list as a top-20 national recruit and was a two-time all-state performer on the gridiron.

Experience
2021-present: Head Coach, Minnesota
2018-21: Assistant Coach, Xavier
2013-18: Assistant Coach, University of Minnesota
2012-13: Assistant Coach, University of Nebraska
2008-12: Assistant Coach, Northern Iowa
2006-08: Assistant Coach, Texas-Pan American
2005-06: Graduate Assistant, University of Dayton

COURTESY MINNESOTA ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS

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