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Lost in the flurry of rumors and innuendo during the search to replace Tubby Smith is that the Golden Gophers basketball team is also awaiting news about who will coach them next.  Damian Johnson, former Golden Gophers forward, was a redshirt freshman when Dan Monson was fired and Tubby Smith was hired. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions about what a coaching search is like for players, and how it affects them.

FTB: How impactful is a coaching change when you’re a current player?

DJ: It depends on your relationship with the coach who is being replaced. If you did not see eye to eye with the former coach, you probably will be looking forward to a change. In my situation, I was excited to go in a new direction because we were coming off a 9-22 season. So no matter what, the grass was greener no matter who was hired.

FTB: As a recruit, how much does a coaching change weigh into your decision to go to a school?

DJ: If I’m a recruit, I would reopen my recruitment because you had a relationship with the coach who was fired, and he played a major role in you committing to his program. It’s not that I would change my mind on the institution, but I would want to know how I would fit in the new coach’s system.

FTB: How much say do players have when a coaching search is on?

DJ: It depends on the player. Role players have no say but a star player will get his chance to have an input on the process.

FTB: When there is a coaching change, are players approached by other teams and encouraged to transfer?

DJ: Honestly, yes. Schools will find a way to call someone connected to you and try to pry you away, but the best thing to do is wait for the hire unless you hate school you are at.

FTB: How difficult is it to adjust to a new coach?

DJ: It can be very difficult in the beginning because you were taught by one coach a certain philosophy and it takes time to break those habits. Coach Smith was intense because he was trying to change the losing culture we had the year with the old staff.

FTB: As a player, what is the biggest positive about a coaching change, what is the biggest negative?

DJ: The biggest positive is a breath a fresh air. Most times when a coach is fired a change was needed for everyone.

The biggest negative is the uncertainty around the program. You don’t know how the new coach will react to different situations on and off the court. You are not one of his guys, so you don’t know whether you are truly wanted or not. You are wondering about the coach’s true personality. When a coach is fired aka the honeymoon stage, everything is all fine and dandy with the new coach, but after a few weeks you start to see the coach’s true colors sometimes good, sometimes bad.

2 thoughts on “Coaching changes from the player perspective: An interview with Damian Johnson

  1. This is truly insightful stuff from Damian knowing that he went through this whole process himself. I know Damian wasn’t one of Tubby’s recruits, but he was definitely one of Tubby’s best players during his tenure. I always liked Damian’s game.

  2. Good to hear from Damian. He was always one of my favorite players because he hustled and played good defense. The current team could’ve used a couple guys like Damian. One of the things that really bugged me about this current team was they very rarely took a charge and this drove me crazy. Taking a charge is so easy but you have to want to win and you have to be able to take a little pain to do it. I hope neither one of the Hollins boy’s leave because they are the heart of the team. Go Gophers!

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