Indiana assistant Kenny Johnson has emerged as Maryland’s top choice to fill the role vacated by Scott Spinelli, multiple individuals with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday.
The Terrapins, however, are not alone in their courtship of Johnson, a 1999 Maryland graduate who has developed a reputation as one of the Washington, D.C., area’s best recruiters. According to Jeff Greer of the Courier-Journal and confirmed by an individual with knowledge of the situation, Johnson is also being considered by Louisville to replace former top assistant Kevin Keatts, who moved to UNC-Wilmington to become its head coach this offseason .
This past weekend, a source said, Johnson met with Coach Mark Turgeon to discuss the open assistant job on a visit to the area and he plans to visit another school in pursuit of him this weekend. On Monday, Spinelli was announced as an assistant coach at Boston College, where he received a significant raise under first-year head coach Jim Christian.
Responsible for signing area prospects like Stanford Robinson (Paul VI), Tory Williams (Oak Hill) and Robert Johnson (Richmond, Va.) to the Hoosiers, Johnson would bring an immediate recruiting pedigree to the Terps, who have already inked the eighth-best recruiting class in 2014, according to ESPN.com. A native of Oxon Hill, Johnson worked with the AAU powerhouse Team Takeover for six years, spent one year as an assistant at Towson before leaping to Tom Crean’s staff in Indiana.
Last year, colleague Matt Bonesteel wrote on Johnson’s connections to success with the Hoosiers:
Johnson had worked with Hoosier players Victor Oladipo and Maurice Creek, but Crean explained recently that Johnson brings more to the program than his contacts and recruitment abilities.
“I was fortunate when I got a start that no one ever pigeonholed me into a position. When you coach, you coach, you recruit, you administrate, you teach, you scout, you do it all. That’s exactly what Kenny Johnson has come here and done,” Crean said. “He’s gotten a lot of notoriety for the recruiting he’s done in a short time, and rightfully so. But he’s a basketball coach. When he leaves us, it won’t be for anything in front of his title other than head coach. He’s going to be that good.”
And this, from a 2012 story by colleague Mark Giannotto about local AAU coaches moving into the college ranks:
“I’ve never been into hiring silver-spoon guys,” Crean said. “Knowing players, knowing an area, having friendships and relationships, absolutely that’s a part of it. But if you can’t communicate, you can’t make people better, those relationships run dry fast. It’s about does this person have the ability to have the whole package. I believe Kenny fits that bill.”
If Johnson indeed views his next gig as a launchpad to a head coaching job, Louisville’s coaching tree might be hard to pass up, assuming he gets offered the job. Five former Pitino assistants appeared in the 2014 NCAA tournament, including Billy Donovan (Florida), including Florida’s Billy Donovan. The Cardinals, who won the 2013 NCAA title, might also be able to offer a higher salary than Maryland.