Shama: Ben Johnson Losing Supporter in Departing U President


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Nov 11, 2008
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per Shama:

Joan Gabel is in the final days this month of her presidency at the University of Minnesota before becoming Chancellor at Pittsburgh. Gabel’s departure is a reminder she played a decisive role in the hiring of men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson.

The Gophers parted ways with head coach Richard Pitino in mid-March of 2021, creating an opening to lead the program. Less than a week later came the surprise announcement that instead of hiring a proven Division I head coach the Gophers were turning to Johnson, a former U player and experienced assistant whose stops had included 2013-2018 at Minnesota and more recently three seasons at Xavier.

Athletic director Mark Coyle vetted Johnson, a Minneapolis native, and presented his credentials to Gabel. Without Gabel’s endorsement Johnson never would have been hired. “To have someone like Ben Johnson leading this program – an ambassador for our University who grew up here, went to school here and knows what the University is all about – is tremendous, for our basketball program and our institution,” Gabel said in a statement announcing the hire. “Like so many Minnesotans, I’m excited to welcome Ben home and look forward to our team’s success under his leadership.”

Success hasn’t been easy to come by in Johnson’s first two seasons. There have been occasional high-five moments, but the Gophers have made program history with first-ever consecutive last place finishes in the Big Ten.

Go Gophers!!

true to a point.

of course, this does not guarantee that the next President will be less supportive of Coach Johnson.

and it does not mean that President Gabel would necessarily have been less enthusiastic if a different candidate had been hired two years ago. let's face it, when a new coach is hired, it's pretty typical for the powers-that-be to sound enthusiastic.

has any college official ever issued a statement like "Well, we hired a new coach, but I don't like him and I think he's going to suck." that would be a hoot, but I don't think it's going to happen.

bottom line - if anyone thinks that "OK, Gable's gone, so now Coyle is going to fire Johnson," that's not going to happen before the season. After the season----depends on the team's record.

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