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Minnesota hires Xavier assistant Ben Johnson as men's basketball coach

Ben Johnson replaces former Minnesota men's basketball coach Richard Pitino (pictured), who was fired last week. File Photo by TonyTheTiger/Wikimedia Commons
Ben Johnson replaces former Minnesota men's basketball coach Richard Pitino (pictured), who was fired last week. File Photo by TonyTheTiger/Wikimedia Commons

March 22 (UPI) -- The University of Minnesota has hired Xavier assistant Ben Johnson as its new men's basketball coach.

The school announced the hiring of Johnson on Monday. According to the university, he received a five-year contract.

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Johnson replaces Richard Pitino, who was fired last week after eight seasons with the Golden Gophers.

"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.

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"I want to thank President Joan Gabel, [athletic director] Mark Coyle, [deputy athletic director] 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."

Johnson, a native of Minneapolis, graduated from Minnesota in 2005. He played two seasons for the Golden Gophers after spending two seasons at Northwestern.

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The 40-year-old Johnson also spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Minnesota under Pitino.

"Ben is a proven coach who is ready to lead his own program," Coyle said in a news release. "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."

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Before returning to Minnesota, Johnson was an assistant under head coach Travis Steele at Xavier for the last three years. Johnson previously spent time as an assistant at Nebraska and Northern Iowa.

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