Johnson replaces Richard Pitino, who was fired last week after eight seasons with the Golden Gophers.
Johnson is a Minneapolis native who graduated from Minnesota in 2005. He played two seasons for the Golden Gophers, averaging about nine points per game, after spending two seasons at Northwestern.
He also spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Minnesota under Pitino, establishing himself as a top scout in the state. Johnson landed, among others, former ESPN 100 rookie and future pro Amir Coffey.
“The University of Minnesota is such a special place and has influenced me immeasurably on and off the court,” Johnson said in a statement. “I would like to thank President Joan Gabel, [athletic director] Mark Coyle, [deputy AD] Julie Manning and everyone involved in the research process for believing in and trusting me to lead this historic program. I am ready to get to work. ”
Through the school, Johnson will receive a five-year contract pending approval from the board of regents.
Johnson has been an assistant under Travis Steele at Xavier for the past three seasons. He also spent time as an assistant coach in Nebraska and northern Iowa.
Minnesota has struggled in recent years to prevent top prospects from leaving the state for college, and the Gophers’ hope is that Johnson’s relationship with high school and AAU coaches in the region can help keep these players at home. He met Coyle over the weekend and agreed to a deal on Monday.
“Ben is a proven coach who is ready to lead his own program,” Coyle said in the release. “He deserved this opportunity and is a great teacher, recruiter and relationship builder. I am delighted that he is leading his alma mater and I am excited about the future of our men’s basketball program. ”