It wasn’t been an easy two weeks for the current Aggie men’s basketball players.
A first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament was followed by speculation that their head coach Craig Smith was leaving, then staying and then he left. Neemias Queta declared for the NBA draft, and the reigning Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year announced he was transferring.
Utah State Athletics Director John Hartwell has made it a point to thank the current players on the team several times over the past week and a half. On Wednesday, they got to meet their new head coach as Ryan Odom was introduced at a press conference. The new coach met with the athletes currently in Logan before visiting with the media.
“You had a great year, and I know the last 10 days have been anxiety filled, until about two days ago,” said Hartwell before introducing Odom. “I can’t tell you what fine young men these are. They are not only great basketball players, but are great representatives and ambassadors for our university.”
Hartwell explained that he went through a coaching change during his playing days and is aware of the anxiety that athletes face. Plus, he was not dealing with COVID, like the current team has.
“My hats off to these guys,” Hartwell said.
Most of the current team was in attendance Wednesday, even Anderson. Justin Bean, who has made it known on social media that he is coming back, was not there Wednesday, but that is due to him being home in Oklahoma. Also absent was guard Steven Ashworth, but he was on a family trip in Mexico, Hartwell, said.
Junior Brock Miller is excited about the upcoming season. This will be the fourth head coach at USU he has had. Miller was the last recruit under Stew Morrill, then played for Tim Duryea and Smith. He, along with Bean, have talked to teammates and encouraged them to stay.
“This is making me feel old, this is my fourth coach,” Miller said. “I’ve told the guys the process is quick, and we will figure out things. Change is tough, and it happens quick. It’s not easy. Everybody has been handling it really well. We are excited for coach Odom.”
Miller said the way Smith left was a shock to the team.
“It was really quick,” Miller explained. “But when you are a coach that has had success like he has the past three years, obviously, there are going to be opportunities to move on. I’m happy for him. He did a lot for us. I’m grateful for what he did.”
Miller said when he found out who their coach would be, he went and watched the UMBC-Virgina game from the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
“I wanted to get a feel for him,” Miller said. “He has a great resume. He is a great coach and great guy. His style of play looks fun. ... Our next step is to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. I really enjoy that is where his mindset is at.”
Odom stressed he will be working on getting to know the current Aggies and inviting them to stay in Logan.
“These guys are the most important,” Odom said pointing at members of the current team. “I’ve got to make sure that they stay here. They love this place. Utah State, like any school, is not for everybody. It’s unique times in college basketball with transfer rules. I think Utah State is uniquely positioned to do well because of those rules. Without a doubt, these guys in front of me are the most important. We want to keep them here. We want them to stay, but if it comes to the point they want to look elsewhere, it’s on them.”
Former Aggie and now NBA player Sam Merrill has already reached out to Odom and offered any support he can give.
While getting to know the current players, the new Aggie head coach will also be assembling a staff. He wants to “hire the right staff that fits in at Utah State.”
Odom is partially waiting to see what happens at UMBC, but is also moving finding some assistants. He is also excited about getting started at his new job.”
“I had a coaching friend tell me years ago when I was a younger coach, bloom where you are planted,” Odom said. “We have been planted here in Logan, Utah, at Utah State. There is nothing about what’s next. We are here.”