One month removed from the end of a difficult 9-22 season, Gophers men's basketball coach Ben Johnson spoke of a brighter future Thursday.

The second-year coach detailed in a Q&A with the Star Tribune, the support he's received from athletic director Mark Coyle. Johnson explained what it's been like handling roster turnover through the transfer portal, with the growing influence of name, image and likeness (NIL) money.

Johnson pointed to the potential of returnees such as Dawson Garcia and Pharrel Payne. The Gophers also landed a transfer commitment Wednesday from Pepperdine point guard Mike Michell Jr., something Johnson can't discuss publicly until the spring signing day in mid-April.

For now, Johnson has had continued conversations with Coyle, mapping out the team's rebuilding process.

"Mark's been great with just understanding the year we had and different types of things that we were battling," Johnson said of a season derailed by injuries and inexperience. "We just always have open conversations about how we can try to get better and improve and what he can do to help."

Here are some highlights from the interview, edited for length:

Q: Did Coyle set any specific goals for you with wins and losses or postseason play next year?

A: You want to win every game. You want to be in postseason play, you want to be competitive for a Big Ten championship. That goes without saying. Our goals don't change year to year.

It's about being competitive and trying to win. It's to compete for a Big Ten championship. [Players know] it's to make the NCAA tournament and when you get there to make a run. It's more of what do we need to do? As far as recruiting, who do we need to bring in? What pieces do we need to add? And then … it's player development. What do our guys need to get better at?

Q: How much does NIL come up in recruiting, especially with the transfer portal?

A: It's getting a lot more traction now. But I also think you still want people to be here for something bigger than just an NIL opportunity. That's part of it. But if that's the sole reason, then you have the wrong direction, the wrong thought process. If it's so weighted towards that, then I think you're kind of missing the boat a little bit.

Q: Did Jamison Battle, Ta'Lon Cooper or Jaden Henley talk about NIL with you before they decided to leave and enter the portal?

A: I'll let those guys answer if they want to and they feel comfortable talking about that stuff. My biggest thing with any of our guys is, I want them to feel comfortable here for whatever reasons it could be. It could be NIL. It could be playing time. It could be position.

Everybody's free to make new decisions. And obviously you've seen that across the country. At the end of the year, you're assuming you're going to lose one or two for whatever reason. And then my sole focus becomes, with the loss, is there a way we can improve off of that? Can we go into the portal and find a piece?

Q: Where is the NIL situation with the Gophers basketball program right now?

A: It's better than last year for sure. We're ahead of where we were last year. But it's like anything. We got to keep going with it. We got to keep improving. You know the national landscape of this is everybody handles it different. Obviously, every league handles it different. But when you're trying to really move the needle and make a jump, it is a big factor. And it is something that's of importance.

Q: You're expecting Dawson Garcia to return next season with the Gophers, right? How much of a boost is that?

A: Yeah. I think just having a year under his belt is a good thing. I felt like probably midway through league play on, he got really comfortable in just his role. He got really comfortable in our schemes, especially offensively.

He put some impressive numbers together. And I think that's a good sign. I do think the third straight year [with a different program] was just something different for him. So now is the first time he's gonna be able to have carry-over with just style of play and expectations. And so I think there's confidence with that. I think we saw that in early workouts. And he's just got a maturity about him right now.

Q: Where can Pharrel Payne improve the most this offseason?

A: I know he's gonna be able to score it, but can you consistently dominate the glass? Being able to be a guy who can run the floor to get an early post, demand the ball. And he's working on just different counters and post moves.

But his ability to catch and score at the rim and finish in traffic is high. I think he's a really driven kid. And so again, like Dawson, it's also exciting to see where he can take it. But I fully expect him to take a big jump this summer.

Q: How concerned are you with only one guard (Braeden Carrington) returning?

A: We got to have some depth. Isaiah [Ihnen] is back and he's a versatile guy. He could play inside and play outside. [Redshirt freshman Kadyn Betts] adds obviously a younger perimeter flavor. But we know we've got to add some depth here in the portal, which is what we'll do.

We're gonna strive this year to be able to have enough bodies where you can withstand if something happens. It doesn't completely gut your ability to practice. And I think that'll be something we touch on in the portal just to make things competitive. And our guys want that.

Q: What did Betts look like in practice by the end of the year?

A: He had spurts where he looked good. He should have been a senior in high school. So, you know towards the end of the year, you can see him catching up to the speed of the game. You can see him physically being able to score on guys because his body's matured. Because he took advantage of the weight room.

Q: How soon will junior forwards Parker Fox and Ihnen be able to participate in summer practice after back-to-back season-ending knee injuries?

A: Isaiah and Parker have gone through a couple workouts, and their bodies have responded pretty good. You want to say maybe they could do a little bit more. But you got to understand to take it slow with the process to make sure that we do it the right way.

I'm sure those guys want to go five-on-five with contact, but you can't. I would expect them to be [fully cleared] at some point in the summer. But I won't put a timetable on when.