LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Utah State has proved to be a nice springboard for head basketball coaches over the last few years.
Craig Smith left for Utah after leading the Aggies to three NCAA Tournament appearances, while Ryan Odom took the job at VCU after taking USU back to the Big Dance.
Danny Sprinkle, who just led Montana State to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, hopes to pick right up where Smith and Odom left off.
“We’re going to do it in a frist-class way, we’re going to do it the right way, with integrity, with passion,” Sprinkle said at his introductory press conference Monday. “We’re going to play with a chip on our shoulder, and we’re going to be a blue-collar team, I can promise you that. Get your lunch pail and your hard hat and let’s go to work.”
Sprinkle is Utah State’s fourth head coach since Stew Morrill retired at the end of the 2015 season.
“Everybody I talked to, they talked about his integrity, the way he coaches his players, with love and toughness,” said USU interim athletic director Jerry Bovee. “Everything I heard was exactly the match for what we need in our program.”
One of the hallmarks of Sprinkle’s coaching career is making sure his players excel in the classroom.
“Our players will graduate,” Sprinkle said. “I had 100% graduation rate at Montana State. That’s non-negotiable. For anybody we bring in here, when they finish, they are going to graduate.”
His first order of business will be to find some players. Four starters from last year’s 26-8 team are no longer with the program. Taylor Funk graduated, while Steven Ashworth, Sean Bairstow and Max Shulga have all entered the transfer portal.
“There’s not a lot of people there right now, and that’s fine,” he said. “Because we’re going to find great players and great people who want to be here.”
Sprinkle said his coaching style will depend on personnel, with a little bit of everything mixed in. Montana State was known as a hard-nosed, tough, physical, defensive-minded team. We’ll see if Utah State plays the same way. But Sprinkle said he is ready to get to work.
“I’m extremely excited to represent you guys, and for the future of the program,” he said. “And go Aggies!”