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TDG Staff Roundtable: Ben Johnson Edition

What does the TDG staff have to say about a surprising and intriguing move by Mark Coyle?

You’ve been reading GN and Street’s great series of posts on the hiring of Ben Johnson as head coach of the Minnesota Gophers, you’ve watched the presser, you’ve listened to the Pahdcast. Now it’s time to read some quick reactions from across the TDG staff.

I’m going to steal Blake’s bit. In a tweet (280) characters or less, describe your initial reaction to the hiring of Ben Johnson.

UStreet: High risk hire with a potential high payoff.

WSR: “Our athletic department is really fucking broke.”

GopherNation: Coach Johnson is injecting some enthusiasm into Gopher hoops. LFG!

zipsofakron: We’ve tried the “proven coach”, the “up-and-comer”, and the “mid-major success story”. Time for a new approach.

GoAUpher: Haiku time.

Welcome one of us

A Gopher leads the Gophers

Optimism reigns

Gopherguy05: Basement level floor, but astronomical (for MN at least) ceiling if somehow everything falls into place.

What do you like best about the hire? Bonus points if you can say something besides “local recruiting.”

UStreet: Well liked with lots of high major experience as an assistant coach.

WSR: ONE OF US! That, and he’s a young guy that’s got a ton of experience in big programs. But ONE OF US!

GopherNation: Johnson has received accolades about his player development, particularly with guards. I want to be known for great guard play an offensive system that really gets the most out of them.

GoAUpher: I feel like the ceiling on this hire is REALLY high. If Ben wins and wins big, there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t stay and keep building something.

Gopherguy05: If it works out..again this is Minnesota so don’t get your hopes too high, but this could be a generational hire in the way that Izzo at MSU or Ryan at WI was. Long term, stable, successful.

zipsofakron: I think he has the energy and the willingness to outwork a lot of people out there. There is something to be said about the chip on your shoulder when people don’t think you can get the job done. He will be extra motivated.

What are your biggest concerns?

UStreet: Ben Johnson has never been a head coach at any level.

WSR: He’s never been a head coach, and I’m not sure if there was any chance of him landing a job anywhere else this cycle either.

GopherNation: Managing a Big Ten program is so much more than recruiting, practices and games. How he handles all of the overall responsibilities while ALSO making sure the recruiting/development/games doesn’t suffer is what concerns me. Things like roster management, player’s schooling, media requests and managing staff are all things he’ll have to stay on top of.

GoAUpher: Every coaching hire is a roll of the dice. If the ceiling is sky high, the floor on this hire is in the basement due to the aforementioned experience issues. I guess in the end I’m not worrying too much since losing big or losing small is going to get you fired eventually (which as a fan you never want). So why worry about the thing you don’t want?

Gopherguy05: If Ben Johnson wasn’t from Minnesota there is zero chance he would be sniffing this job. He lacks a ton of experience, and we just had that with the last guy.

zipsofakron: The lack of head coaching experience, of course, but like I mentioned above it’s not like the guys who have been here since Monson, who had head coaching experience, were lights out by any means. He’s going to have to work pretty hard to underperform expectations.

We all know that “winning the press conference” is not really a thing. However, I am interested if anything from the presser stood out to you?

GopherNation: I’ll argue that losing a press conference IS a thing, so not losing is kind of winning. I think a few of Johnson’s answers show that he’s thinking through the details of how he wants to run his program, manage the details and he knows what he has to do both short and long-term. It wasn’t great detail, but you can tell he’s not just being lost in the excitement of landing his dream job.

GoAUpher: “That’s a Minnesota dude” is worth savoring I think.

Gopherguy05: He talks freely and easily about just about anything. You can see why he has had recruiting success. He can come off as a really cool guy.

zipsofakron: I didn’t expect to get hammered over the head with a single topic, but it is quite clear that recruiting and winning locally is one of, if not the only immediate goals for this program. Not that it shouldn’t be, but there is no question that it’s priority number one.

What should Ben Johnson make his #1 priority as Minnesota’s head coach?

UStreet: Recruiting a PG as there are currently 0 on the roster.

WSR: Can you use the 8 or so scholarships you’ve got available this year to put together a roster full of players you’re willing to use in games?

GopherNation: I’ll go a different route here. Yes, he does need to make sure he has a competent roster for next season. But I’ll argue that he needs to really focus on building a foundation for his program. Meaning, top priority should be getting guys who help to build his program. If he has to sacrifice next season for that? Fine with me. Worry most about recruiting the 2022 class, more than bringing in bodies for 2021-22. If I have to identify just one priority, it would be convincing Mashburn to stay. Number 2 is that 2022 class. Number 3 is hit that transfer portal, especially if you can land 2 or 3 year guys.

GoAUpher: Do something wacky with Coach Fleck (or a la Coach Fleck). I need #content that makes me smile.

Gopherguy05: Doing what he needs to do to turn this into a consistent top half of the Big Ten job in the next 3 years. Doesn’t need to be next season, but he was hired for a reason and that was getting talent to Minnesota and using that talent.

zipsofakron: I don’t even care if they go 0-20 in the conference next year. Please get a guy in here that can make three-pointers. For the love of god I just want to shoot over 30% from deep.

If you were in a position to offer advice to Coach Johnson about this job, what would it be?

UStreet: Pass. Everyone incorrectly thinks they can do the job of the head coach.

WSR: Win basketball games, don’t get caught cheating.

GopherNation: Do it your way. You get one shot at this job. Tune out the noise and do it your way.

GoAUpher: Don’t listen to fans who write questions like this, they’re idiots.

Gopherguy05: #makethebarngreatagain

zipsofakron: The bar for success never been lower. You could have a bronze statue of yourself out front if you can be a 9-seed every year in the NCAA Tournament.