Kenny Johnson has been hired by Ashley Howard as an assistant at La Salle, making him the first coach that was fired as a result of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball to be hired once again.
Johnson, who had previously been on staff at Indiana and Towson, was caught up in the fall out at Louisville, where he was an assistant on staff under Rick Pitino from 2014-2017.
Johnson was not named in any of the FBI complaints, and a source told NBC Sports that he was not one of the unnamed Louisville coaches. He was, per the source, fully vetted by La Salle, and that they found no NCAA violations. The FBI has told Johnson that he is not a subject of their investigation at this time and that he has fully cooperated with authorities.
This is a hire that is not without risk. La Salle was not the only program to consider hiring Johnson this offseason — his recruiting connections run deep, particularly with Washington D.C. area kids — but they were the first to pull the trigger on clearing him to be hired. No one knows what else is on the FBI’s wiretaps, or where their investigation could lead if more people decide to cooperate.
Johnson coached at Indiana and Louisville, two of the biggest brands Adidas has on their payroll. It makes sense that schools would be scared off.
But I also think that this is a risk that is worth taking for a program like La Salle. Howard, a former Villanova assistant and La Salle alum, is getting a coach on the cheap that, frankly, has no business being at a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic 10 program. That’s big for a cash-strapped athletic department, and he should be able to pay them back by bringing talent into the program.
Johnson likely isn’t foolish enough to get caught breaking NCAA rules given the heightened amount of scrutiny that is going to be on him because of this investigation, and if anything from his past pops up La Salle can hide behind the fact that they did their due diligence, the FBI said he was not a subject of their investigation and, thus, they were lied to.
We’ll see how it all plays out, but it seems like the future of the La Salle basketball program is looking up.