The Scoops: Gophers expected to hire Ben Johnson to Pitino's staff
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
The Gophers never reached out to Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles, who sources say, would've given serious thought to replacing Tubby Smith. But they have thought about the Cornhuskers.
In fact, look for Nebraska assistant -- and former Gophers player -- Ben Johnson to fill a spot on new Gophers coach Richard Pitino's staff, according to sources. An official announcement should come as soon as Friday.
Johnson, 32, was in Lincoln for one season. He spent the four previous years on Northern Iowa's staff. Before that, he was at Texas-Pan American for two seasons. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Dayton in 2005.
Pitino interviewed Johnson in Atlanta on Monday.
A star player at DeLaSalle high school for coach Dave Thorson, Johnson can use that relationship to help recruit Reid Travis. Pitino met with Travis Thursday afternoon at Williams Arena, and will meet with another member of the local Class of 2014 Big 3, Cooper's Rashad Vaughn on Friday afternoon, according to a source.
• Mike Balado will slot in as an operations guy on Pitino's staff, so one assistant spot is still open. Look for that hire to be finalized in the next couple days. One of a few names in the mix is Auburn associate head coach Ryan Miller.
• Balado and Young wouldn't even take a dinner break with bosses Norwood Teague and Mike Ellis on Tuesday night. They worked nonstop until close to midnight.
• Per Memphis transfer big man Tarik Black's AAU coach Eric Robinson, both Pitino and Young have reached out.
• Unfortunately, so have Duke, Kansas, and approximately 20 other schools. Black is eligible to play right away.
• The Gophers have also expressed interest in Rutgers decommitment, point guard Shane Rector.
• Former Hopkins HS star and Baylor director of operations Jared Nuness chatted with Pitino on Thursday afternoon. But there's not a fit on the staff.
• According to Ellis in a 1500 ESPN interview on Thursday night, the grand master facilities plan that was to be unveiled this month is being pushed back to June. Teague said in February that the final price could cost in the $80 million to $125 million range.
• It was all hands on deck in the coaching search. David Benedict, who's the boss of the football team, helped reach out to candidates including Arizona State assistant Eric Musselman.
• Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn told local writer Britt Robson a while ago that he wasn't saving his 5-year contract offer for point guard Ricky Rubio. That he would get the same opportunity as forward Kevin Love (four years, with a player option after the third year). Well, Rubio's camp has never heard a word about that. In fact, the belief is he'll get a five-year offer when eligible starting in the summer 2014. That would be after three years of service.
• The Wolves are represented by Rob Babcock, RJ Adelman, and Matt Bollero at this week's Portsmouth Draft Invitational.
• In case you're wondering if Ricky Davis had his facts straight when he told Grantland he had a tryout with the Wolves in January, he really did.
• Wolves second round pick Robbie Hummel is said to be doing well in Europe. Talks about next year will commence once his season is over. There's a good chance the Wolves will, minimum, have him play on their summer league team.
The Twins are kicking the tires on outfielder Julio Borbon, according to a team official. He was designated for assignment by Texas earlier in the week. A trade doesn't seem likely, but the Twins will think long-and-hard about putting a waiver claim in on him if he hits the wire.
• Pitcher Rich Harden will throw to hitters for the first time this spring on Saturday. While there's still no timetable for him to throw in an actual game, word is the Twins and him are still hopeful that he'll be a contributor at some point in 2013. As goofy as it might sound, word is his repaired right shoulder feels the best it has in the last five years.
• In spite of a national report, the Twins never had interest in trading for pitcher Aaron Harang. He went from Colorado to Seattle via a trade on Thursday.
• The St. Paul Saints signed former Twins minor league pitcher Mark Hamburger on Thursday. He's currently suspended 50-games by major league baseball for testing positive for an undisclosed drug. He appeared in five games for Texas in 2011.