Gophers men’s basketball coach Richard Pitino’s staff is now complete with Minnesota native and former Iona assistant Jeff Mailhot being officially announced Monday morning.

Mailhot, a Minneapolis native and Hopkins graduate, spent the 2019-20 season as an assistant under Iona coach Tim Cluess after a two-year stint at New Mexico State. His tenure with the Aggies included two Western Athletic Conference titles from 2017-19. 

“Jeff is a perfect fit for our program,” Pitino said in a statement. “He has advanced through all levels of basketball and has a proven reputation as a recruiter and hard worker." 

Not since former DeLaSalle standout and U player Ben Johnson was on Pitino's staff for his first five seasons have the Gophers had an assistant with local ties like Mailhot. Johnson left to become an assistant at Xavier in 2018.

The Gophers have struggled recently to keep the top players in the state from leaving. But Mailhot will try to help Pitino and his staff continue to strive toward giving Minnesota's talent a reason to stay home.

"In addition to his coaching experience, he is a Minnesota native and has a great understanding of Gopher basketball," Pitino added. "We are excited to add Jeff to our staff.”

Mailhot didn't waste any time reaching out Monday to the state's best Class of 2021 prospects, including former East Ridge and current Sunrise Christian Academy (Kan.) guard Kendall Brown and Minnehaha Academy five-star center Chet Holmgren.

"He contacted me really fast, starting to build that relationship," said Brown, who recently included Minnesota in his top 10 schools. "It means a lot him being from here and the love they're showing me right now." 

A 2000 graduate of Hopkins, Mailhot was in the same graduating class as former Gophers basketball players Jeff Hagen and Zach Puchtel. As a 6-foot-7 forward, Mailhot played one season at UC Riverside, but he finished his career at Cal Baptist in 2004-05.

His coaching experience started in Minnesota at the high school level. Mailhot was an assistant under his former coach Ken Novak Jr. on the 2009 state championship season. The Royals finished with a 29-0 record. He also coached former Gophers player Rodney Williams Jr. at Cooper in 2007-08.

Pitino lost his fifth assistant in seven years this spring when Rob Jeter became the head coach at Western Illinois. The longest tenured assistant on Pitino's staff is Ed Conroy, who was promoted to associate head coach in April after finishing his fourth season at Minnesota. Kyle Lindsted, formerly at Wichita State, will be entering his third season with the Gophers.