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Report: Minnesota to hire Ben Johnson as basketball coach, leaving Craig Smith at Utah State

Utah State head coach Craig Smith, left, talks with a game official during a break in the first half of a game against Texas Tech in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Friday, March 19, 2021, at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind.
Doug McSchooler, Associated Press

The fast-paced world of college coaching hires was on display Monday, as multiple outlets reported that Minnesota will hire Xavier assistant Ben Johnson to be its new men’s basketball leader.

Those reports came hours after KSTP Sports, an ABC affiliate in Saint Paul, Minnesota, reported that Utah State head coach Craig Smith, a Minnesota native, would be interviewing in person for the position.

Minnesota fired Richard Pitino last week. He was the Golden Gophers’ coach for eight seasons.

Smith has been the Aggies’ head coach the past three seasons, compiling a 74-23 record during that span. His teams have qualified for the NCAA Tournament every year since he arrived in Logan — Utah State has gone 0-2 in its NCAA Tournament appearances under Smith, and the 2020 tournament was canceled by the pandemic.

Utah State has played well in conference under Smith, twice winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament and never finishing lower than a tie for second in the regular-season standings.

Any Smith move could have an impact on another coaching position in the state of Utah. Smith is widely seen as a candidate for the now-vacant coaching position at Utah, after the school parted ways with Larry Krystkowiak last week. The Athletic’s Tony Jones reported that former Utah Ute Alex Jensen, now an assistant with the Utah Jazz, is initially a leading candidate for the Utes’ job.