Gophers’ men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson says AD ‘has my back’

The Gophers went 8-21, 2-17, with a heavy reliance on inexperienced freshmen, this season.

Minnesota Gophers men's basketball head coach Ben Johnson reacts to a play against Central Michigan on Nov. 17, 2022 in Minneapolis. Johnson is in his second year coaching the Gophers, who again finished last in the Big Ten.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Head coach Ben Johnson said Monday that athletics director Mark Coyle has been “really supportive” while the Gophers men’s basketball program struggled to a second consecutive last-place finish in the Big Ten this season.

Coyle has “been a guy that has been awesome to work with and to know that he has my back and he sees the growth and development,” Johnson said. “He sees the path and trajectory of where we are going and who we have in our program.”

When women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen said she stepped down after five seasons last week, attention turned to Johnson’s future after two seasons in the conference basement. Johnson did not sound this week like a coach looking over his shoulder, saying Coyle “totally understands” the situation the program is in.

“He is like me, though, he is really competitive and he wants to win and he knows we can win here — and that we are going to win here,” Johnson said.

When you travel for the college hockey playoffs, you're wise to ask the locals what to do, see, eat and experience. The Rink Live polled hockey friends and got tips on visiting the Red River Valley.
Dawn Plitzuweit has a .721 winning percentage across 16 years and replaces Lindsay Whalen, who had a .482 winning mark over her five seasons at the university.
This is the fifth regional tournament in eight years for the Scheels Arena staff
Top seeded in the 16-team NCAA tournament, the Minnesota Gophers will face Canisius in their opener, needing two wins to get back to the Frozen Four, and four wins to claim a sixth national title.
The university and Plitzuweit have agreed to a six-year contract pending Board of Regents approval and the completion of a background check.
Both rosters are filled with future NHLers and many are former teammates as Minnesota tries to hang its second banner of the season with a win in the Big Ten tournament title game versus Michigan.
Among a large group of Vikings staff at Pro Day on Wednesday were GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell
Two from each of the men's hoops and football teams are looking for a new home
It had been two weeks since they had played a game, but after a bit of a slow start, the Minnesota Gophers found their legs and found their way back to the conference tourney title game.
Coming back are all-Big Ten honorable mention big man Dawson Garcia and four freshmen who gained a wide breadth of experience: Pharrel Payne, Josh Ola-Joseph, Jaden Henley and Braeden Carrington.

The first-time head coach views his situation this way: He had a complete roster rebuild in Year 1 and went 13-17 overall and 4-16 in Big Ten play. Then with only two healthy returners — starting wing Jamison Battle and backup big man Treyton Thompson — went 8-21, 2-17, with a heavy reliance on inexperienced freshmen, this season.


When Johnson talks about who he has in the program, he’s primarily referring to potential all-Big Ten big man Dawson Garcia and four freshmen — Pharrel Payne, Josh Ola-Joseph, Jaden Henley and Braeden Carrington.

Minnesota wants to reap the benefits of those players getting older and gelling together. But that objective took a hit with news Sunday that Battle is likely playing his final games for Minnesota on Wednesday. He is leaning toward a professional playing career, possibly in an overseas league.

The 14th-seeded Gophers will play 12th-seed Nebraska (16-15, 9-11) in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Wednesday in Chicago. Tipoff is approximately 8 p.m., and the winner will play Maryland at roughly 8 p.m. Thursday.

Dawson Garcia

Minnesota pushed Nebraska to overtime before losing 81-79 at Williams Arena on Jan. 7. The U gave away the Feb. 25 game in Lincoln with 19 turnovers as the Cornhuskers won 78-67.

Last year, the Gophers lost 60-51 to Penn State in the first round of the conference tournament, and Johnson wants to see his team take the next step Wednesday.

“You’ve got to have that feeling that you don’t want it to end quite yet and to battle to have one more day and one more game,” Johnson said.

Garcia said that not-done-yet mentality was mentioned immediately after the 71-67 loss to Wisconsin on Sunday.

“Our next game,” he said, “is not our last game.”


Big Ten Tournament schedule

Wednesday, March 8

First round: Ohio State vs. Wisconsin, 5:30 p.m., BTNFirst round: Minnesota vs. Nebraska, 8 p.m., BTN

Thursday, March 9

Second round: Rutgers vs. Michigan, 11 a.m., BTNSecond round: TBD vs. Iowa, 1:30 p.m., BTNSecond round: Penn State vs. Illinois, 5:30 p.m., BTNSecond round: TBD vs. Maryland, 8 p.m., BTN

Friday, March 10

Quarterfinals: TBD vs. Purdue, 11 a.m., BTNQuarterfinals: TBD vs. Michigan State, 1:30 p.m., BTNQuarterfinals: TBD vs. Northwestern, 5:30 p.m., BTNQuarterfinals: TBD vs. Indiana, 8 p.m., BTN

Saturday, March 11

Semifinals: TBD vs. TBD, noon, CBSSemifinals: TBD vs. TBD, 2:30 p.m., CBS

Sunday, March 12

Championship: TBD vs. TBD, 2:30 p.m., CBS



This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

What To Read Next
Get Local