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Former Gopher Damian Johnson takes over Benilde-St Margaret's hoops program

Chris Long
Updated: June 18, 2020 01:30 PM
Created: June 18, 2020 12:06 PM

After three superb seasons at North Saint Paul, former Gopher Damian Johnson is taking over as head coach at Benilde-St Margaret's.

Johnson began working with his new team for the first time this week as conditioning sessions were permitted.

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Click the video box on this page to watch KSTP Sports' chat with Damian Johnson about his new post at Benilde-St Margaret's and how his new players received the word Johnson was taking over their program

BSM alumnus Jordan Taylor - who won a state title in 2008 and went on to star at Wisconsin - is a close friend of Johnson's.  He says Taylor was a key figure in drawing his interest to coach the Red Knights.

"I realized how much of an opportunity this was," Johnson said. "You look at a school that is rich in tradition, they have a lot of great resources here, a lot of great kids part of this community.  I felt it was a great opportunity to continue to build my coaching resume."

Johnson went 57-25 at North St Paul, using the defensive-style of basketball that was his trademark as a college player.

"I don't care how many points we score, as long as we stop them from scoring - that's all that matters," Johnson said.

He played for the Gophers from 2006 to 2010 and still ranks third on the Gophers all-time career lists for both steals and blocks. He was Big Ten All-Defensive team his junior season.

While his players know he's a Gophers alumnus, he doubts any remember seeing him on the court.

"They probably got all their information from Wikipedia because I don't think many of them got to see me play," he said of his players who were toddlers during his time as a Gopher. "Hopefully their parents got a chance to see me play and have been letting them know I'm a real grinder on the defensive end."

The Gophers moved on from Dan Monson to Tubby Smith early in Johnson's time on campus, a transition he feels will help him as he adjusts to working with his new team.

"During that coaching change, it hit me - there was so much uncertainty," he said. "Even knowing if I was going to be a fit for the next coach when Coach (Tubby) Smith came in. Before we found out Smith was coming in, I was kind of nervous."

The Red Knights finished last season 5-21.

Johnson is a native of Louisiana and played in the NBA Summer League and several professional leagues overseas during his six-year professional career.


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