Utah State University Vice President and Director of Athletics John Hartwell announced Monday that Craig Smith has been named the school’s 19th head coach in 113 seasons of Aggie basketball.
A press conference to formally introduce Smith will be held in the Wayne Estes Center, which is located on the Utah State campus, on Tuesday, March 27, at 11 a.m. The event is open to the public and media, and free parking will be available in the lots just north of the Estes Center.
“Our family and I are pumped to join Utah State University and the community of Logan,” said Smith. “Utah State men’s basketball has tremendous leadership from the top in President (Noelle) Cockett, athletic director John Hartwell, and all the way down. It was easy to see and feel that our visions were aligned when it comes to running a successful basketball program.
“Utah State has a rich tradition of excellence with tremendous fan support. The Dee Glen Smith Spectrum is one of the best home-court atmospheres in the country and I am amped to see ‘The HURD’ in full force. We are looking forward to making USU hoops a force in the Mountain West.”
In all, Smith has 22 years of collegiate coaching experience, including seven years as a head coach, and has been to postseason play 10 times during his career, while winning three regular season and two postseason conference championships. As a head coach, Smith has been named conference Coach of the Year three times (2006, 2007, 2017) in addition to receiving the NAIA II National Coach of the Year Award in 2007 and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 12 Coach of the Year Award in 2017.
Smith also has experience coaching in the Mountain West as he spent five years as an assistant at Colorado State from 2008 to 2012.
“When we started this process two weeks ago we identified several characteristics we wanted in our next head coach – high energy, high character, a proven recruiter and proven player development, to name a few,” said Hartwell. “We believe we have not only checked all the boxes, but that we have hit a home run with the hiring of Craig Smith. Craig has been a winner at every level. Craig, his wife Darcy, and their family, will be tremendous assets to Utah State University and Cache Valley. We look forward to Craig leading our team to the high levels of success that Aggie basketball has experienced in our storied history.”
Smith comes to Utah State after spending the past four years as the head coach at the University of South Dakota, where he led the Coyotes to a 79-55 (.590) record, including a 38-26 (.594) mark in the Summit League. In his last two seasons at USD, he led the program to back-to-back postseason appearances (NIT, CBI) and a conference championship (2017), as the Coyotes produced a 48-21 (.696) record, including a 23-7 (.767) mark in league play.
During this past season at South Dakota, Smith led the Coyotes to a 26-9 record, which is the second-most wins in school history, and its best record in their 10 years at the Division I level. USD also finished second in its conference during the 2017-18 campaign with an 11-3 mark and advanced to the championship game of the Summit League Tournament, followed by an appearance in the College Basketball Invitational, which was its second-straight postseason appearance. In all, USD did not lose back-to-back games once during the 2017-18 regular season.
Statistically, South Dakota led the Summit League and ranked 12th in the nation in scoring margin (+12.2 points per game) during the 2017-18 season, while also ranking first in the conference and 32nd nationally in field goal percentage defense (.409), and first in the conference and 36th in the nation in field goal percentage offense (.476). USD also ranked third in the Summit League and 35th in the nation in scoring offense (80.9 points per game) during the 2017-18 campaign, second in the conference and 30th in the nation in turnovers (11.1 per game), and second in the league and 20th nationally in turnover margin (+3.2 per game). The Coyotes also led the league and ranked 65th nationally in 3-point field goal percentage defense (.329) last season and were first in the conference in scoring defense (68.7 points per game), while also ranking second in the conference in both free throws made (555) and attempted (740).
Following the 2016-17 season, Smith was named the Summit League and NABC District 12 Coach of the Year as he led South Dakota to a 22-12 record, including a 12-4 mark in league play, to win its second-ever Division I conference championship. The Coyotes concluded the season by playing in the National Invitation Tournament.
During his four years as the head coach at South Dakota, Smith coached nine players who earned a total of 11 Summit League honors, including Matt Mooney, who was a two-time first-team all-league honoree and a two-time NABC All-District 12 team member.
Prior to being the head coach at South Dakota, Smith spent two seasons as an assistant at Nebraska (2013-14) and five seasons as an assistant at Colorado State (2008-12), helping the Cornhuskers to the 2014 NCAA Tournament and the Rams to the 2012 NCAA Tournament. While at CSU, Smith also helped the Rams advance to the 2010 CBI Tournament and the 2011 NIT.
Smith’s other head coaching stint was at Mayville State University in North Dakota, where he compiled a 72-29 record in three seasons and three-straight NAIA II National Tournament appearances from 2005-07. The Comets were 1-25 the season before Smith’s arrival and competed in the NAIA National Championship game in their third season under Smith.
After winning 17 games in his first season at Mayville State, the Comets set a school record for victories with 28 during the 2005-06 campaign, while winning the Dakota Athletic Conference (DAC) regular season and tournament championships. Mayville State advanced to the national quarterfinals before falling to the eventual national champions.
In 2007, Smith was named the NAIA II National Coach of the Year when the Comets defended their regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the National Championship game. It marked the first time any men’s basketball team from North Dakota had ever played for a national title. Smith also earned DAC Coach of the Year honors in both 2006 and 2007.
Smith began his coaching career as an assistant at Mayville State during the 1996-97 season as he helped the Comets advance to the NAIA II Tournament. He then spent the 1997-98 season as a graduate assistant at Northern State in South Dakota, helping the Wolves to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division II Tournament. He then spent three seasons as an assistant at Minot State in North Dakota, followed by three more seasons as an assistant at North Dakota State, where he began his affiliation with current Nebraska head coach Tim Miles. Following his three years as head coach at Mayville State, Smith worked under Miles at both Colorado State and Nebraska before becoming the head coach at South Dakota.
Smith is a Stephen, Minn., native and a 1996 graduate of the University of North Dakota, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education. He then earned his master’s degree in teaching and learning from Northern State, where he served as a graduate assistant for the 1997-98 season. The Wolves reached their first-ever Elite Eight that season.