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Report: Richard Pitino adds former Gopher Ben Johnson to coaching staff


University of Nebraska

Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino has reportedly made an important addition to his coaching staff, hiring Ben Johnson as an assistant coach according to Marcus R. Fuller of the Pioneer Press.

Johnson, who was an assistant coach on Tim Miles’ staff at Nebraska this past season, is an important addition for Pitino due to his connections to both the school and the state of Minnesota. Johnson spent four seasons at Northern Iowa before making the move to Lincoln.

Johnson is a native of the state (won two state titles at De La Salle HS) and played two seasons at Minnesota (2002-04) after beginning his collegiate career at Northwestern.

Johnson joins Kimani Young, who was an assistant on Pitino’s staff at FIU, on the staff with director of basketball operations Mike Balado also making the move north from FIU.

With Johnson’s connections within the state the question now becomes how much will this help with three of the best players in the 2014 class residing in Minnesota.

Point guard Tyus Jones, shooting guard Rashad Vaughn and small forward Reid Travis are all Top 50 talents with Jones and Vaughn being hailed as Top 5-caliber prospects. Pitino has already reached out to the players, an important early step to take after accepting the job.

If Johnson can help the new staff become even tighter with the top players in the state, the task of making the Golden Gophers a contender in the Big Ten becomes more manageable.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.