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

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.

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.