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Tue., Sept. 3, 2013, 9:05 p.m.

Ben Johnson moving back to Australia


FROM PULLMAN -- WSU announced Tuesday that assistant coach Ben Johnson has “decided to leave” the men’s basketball program. Coach Ken Bone told the Spokesman-Review that Johnson plans to move back to Cairns, Australia, where he played and coached for several years. Johnson’s wife is also from Cairns, and Johnson was the primary recruiter of a handful of Australian players who came through the program in the last decade -- Aron Baynes, Brock Motum and Dexter Kernich-Drew among them.

Johnson began as an assistant in 2004 under former coach Dick Bennett, eventually coaching under Dick’s son, Tony, and was the lone holdover from Bennett’s staff when coach Ken Bone was hired in 2009.

Bone said that when he kept Johnson on staff upon his arrival at WSU, Johnson told him he planned to move back to Australia at some point in the future.

“We were very fortunate to have him in the program the last four years,” Bone said. “He’s just a great person. High character, great basketball knowledge. He’s been a huge asset to our program.”

Bone said he wasn’t sure if Johnson has accepted another coaching job. He also said newly hired director of player development Rod Jensen, renowned as a defensive specialist, is “definitely” a candidate to replace Johnson as assistant. Bone hopes to fill that position “real soon,” and said he’s spoken with candidates in the past 48 hours.

This is the second departure from WSU’s coaching staff in the past few months. Jeff Hironaka left to take an assistant job at Portland State over the summer after spending a season in a lesser role as director of player development.

Ray Lopes was hired from Idaho last summer. Curtis Allen is now the last remaining assistant from Bone's initial staff.

Christian Caple can be reached at Twitter: @ChristianCaple

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