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With the 20th men’s head basketball coach in program history taking over, it was pointed out Wednesday morning that Utah State has had lots of success on the hardwood.

The new coach acknowledge that and is excited to build on it. He wants to not only go to the NCAA Tournament, but win games. Ryan Odom was formally introduced by USU Athletics Director John Hartwell on Wednesday. He was hired on Monday.

“I’m so excited to be here, so blessed to be here, thankful for this amazing opportunity and responsibility,” said Odom, who was accompanied by his wife Lucia and sons Connor and Owen. “It really is a tremendous responsibility to lead this storied Aggie program. The tradition that exists is a credit to all those who have come before. ... I’m blessed to be standing here now.”

Hartwell interviewed six candidates for the opening and did not use a search firm this time. He and Odom clicked right away.

“This is an exciting day for Utah State athletics, Utah State basketball in particular and for all of Cache Valley,” Hartwell said. “... The winning ways and traditions that have been built, we are getting ready to take it to the next level. ... We wanted to make sure we had the right person leading men’s basketball going forward.”

Odom’s contract will be for five years with a base salary of $800,000 per season. The final details on incentives are still being worked out, but will be similar to what Craig Smith had before leaving to take over at the University of Utah.

“We still have some moving parts, but it’s basically five years, $4 million,” Hartwell said.

There was a lot of interest in the opening at USU. Hartwell spent nearly a week on the road interviewing and making his decision.

“We had unbelievable interest from very successful head coaches, assistant coaches and folks in the NBA,” Hartwell said. “That’s a tribute to this university, this athletics department and these young men that are here. There are a lot of people that want to get on the bandwagon after qualifying for three straight NCAA Tournaments.

“But very clearly, the guy who distinguished himself as the right guy to lead Utah State basketball going forward and not only maintain our levels of success, but to expand on that success,” Hartwell said. “And like Ryan just told the team in a meeting before this, it’s not about just getting to the NCAA Tournament, it’s to win games in the NCAA Tournament. This guy has done it and knows how to do it. He inherits a team that is not a rebuild.”

Odom took over at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in 2017. The Retrievers had lost 20 or more games for seven straight seasons. In 2018, UMBC made history by being the first 16th-seeded team to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when the Retrievers beat top-ranked Virginia. He left UMBC with a 97-60 record after five seasons.

After being introduced, Odom talked about several points. Including gratitude and being thankful for the opportunity. He also shared a personal fact that he had not even told the Aggie AD. Odom proposed to his wife 21 years ago in Utah while on a trip.

“Lucia thought it was just a trip, a vacation,” Odom said. “On one of these mountains around here (Utah), I got my No. 1 recruit. I asked her to marry me right here in Utah.”

While he has never coached in the west, he has ties to the Beehive State. On top of having vacationed here a few times and proposing to his wife, the newest USU coach is good friends with Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder. Plus, Odom has a brother that is a scout for the Jazz.

“We met years ago; I met him (Snyder) through my brother,” Odom said. “He was an assistant coach at Duke whole my father was the head coach at Wake (Forest). ... He and my brother Lane became good friends. Lane was with him at Missouri and now Lane is a scout for the Jazz. It will be neat to be so close and have access. ... Quin has let me spend time there watching workouts. He (Snyder) sent a text to John (Hartwell) asking about a play I stole from him. That was pretty funny.”

The new coach talked about being grateful for the opportunity to take over at USU and reflected back to getting a chance to be a head coach at Division II Lenoir-Ryne (North Carolina) and then UMBC. He guided Lenoir-Ryne to the Sweet Sixteen.

“No one in life that has any type of success does it on their own, and I’m certainly not different,” Odom said. “... I know where I came from. I’m so thankful for all the players and coaches I’ve worked for and assistant coaches that have pushed me.”

He also thanked his family, including his parents, brother, his wife and two sons.

“It’s no secret, we are moving west and we are excited,” Odom said. “Dad is going to have to get used to midnight games and stay up a little later than he is used to. That’s okay. That’s what families do. My brother was ecstatic when I was offered the job (at USU) and said I had to do it.”

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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