For the first time in Ben Johnson's coaching career, the spotlight was all on him.
As the former Gophers assistant coach and team captain strolled to the stage for his introduction as the team's next men's basketball coach Tuesday, the "Minnesota Rouser" blared from speakers in the background.
Johnson didn't yell, "SKI-U-MAH!" or pump his fists and throw up his arms with jubilation. Instead, he was just himself: Easygoing, mild-mannered and yet very confident in this space.
The biggest moment of his life didn't look too big.
"When you talk about a dream job and a dream opportunity, this is it," Johnson said at the team's Athletes Villagepractice facility. "I've hit it."
Now that Johnson has become a head coach, now that he looks the part, the next step is showing everyone what he is all about. His system. His philosophy. His style. His culture.
“You can tell Purdue players and Michigan State players. That's going to be our goal. I want our fans to say,'that's a Minnesota dude.' … We bleed it through and through. And we take a ton of pride in our state and our program. And we're not going to fail.”
Unlike Pitino, who promised a fast-paced, up-tempo system he couldn't deliver after his first news conference in 2013, Johnson admitted to not knowing yet what playing style he'll use.
"With his experience at Xavier and the different coaches I talked to about Ben and his ability, I'm not worried about the in-game stuff," Coyle said. "He knows how to X and O with anybody … He will surround himself with a great staff."
Johnson doesn't know his staff yet or personnel, which can change quickly with the transfer portal. He said what most coaches say, that he likes an "exciting style." The types of characteristics he's looking for in his players, though, are closer to his own makeup.
As a player, he was a grinder, a hard worker. Tough. Unselfish. A shooter.
At 40, the Minneapolis native carries the same goatee and athletic build of his playing days, the same low-key demeanor. But there's an intensity inside.
"I want to be hard-nosed," said Johnson, a former DeLaSalle standout. "I want to have some grit and a little bit of nasty. Play with confidence and have a chip on our shoulder."
Since he has played and been an assistant coach in the Big Ten for nine combined seasons, he's aware that the toughness factor can be key to winning and losing in such a grind-it-out conference.
From coaching and recruiting most recently in the Big East the past three seasons, Johnson saw a different and faster-paced brand of basketball. Xavier coach Travis Steele also allowed him to be in charge of scheming the team's offense at times, a responsibility not given to him in his five seasons under Pitino.
"We're going to be a team that moving the ball is important to me on offense," Johnson said. "Getting a great shot is important to me on offense. I love the three. As everybody does. We've got to recruit skill. We've got to recruit guys who can dribble, pass and shoot at premium. Like a premium, premium. Especially the shooting piece."
When he played for the Gophers, Johnson was a career 39.2% shooter from three-point range and 83% on free throws. He led the team in free throw shooting twice and three-point shooting as a senior.
Under Pitino, the Gophers finished this regular season last among high major conference programs and 340th nationally in three-point shooting (28.4%). A school-record low for a single season, but they attempted the third-most threes (730) in team history.
"That's the one thing about the three: Everybody loves it," Johnson said. "But sometimes it can be a psychological thing. I think we have good shooters. I really do. It's just working. It's putting the work in. It's getting reps up. It's getting that confidence. It's getting that swagger back. It's living in the gym. It's falling in love with being in the gym and for the group [of Gophers players he spoke to Monday], I think they're hungry. Sometimes it's fun to hit the reset button, and everybody gets a clean slate."
Johnson said he heard from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who often plays mentor to young coaches in the Big Ten. The newest Gophers coach is the youngest in the conference.
Johnson admires Izzo and Purdue coach Matt Painter for having a brand of basketball that is easily recognizable and true to their roots as passionate homegrown coaches from the states where they grew up.
"You can tell Purdue players and Michigan State players," Johnson said. "That's going to be our goal. I want our fans to say, 'that's a Minnesota dude.' … We bleed it through and through. And we take a ton of pride in our state and our program. And we're not going to fail."