LOGAN, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Ryan Odom has some pretty big shoes to fill at Utah State.
Odom was hired to replace Craig Smith, who qualified for the NCAA Tournament in all three of his seasons with the Aggies.
But after Smith took the head coaching job at the University of Utah, USU athletic director John Hartwell was quick to hire Odom away from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
“I’m so excited to be here, so blessed and thankful for this amazing opportunity and responsibility,” Odom said at his introductory press conference Wednesday.
It’s a responsibility Odom welcomes. Best known for his historic upset with 16th-seeded UMBC over #1 seed Virginia in 2018, Odom was offered other jobs over the years, but ultimately chose Utah State.
“Obviously I’ve had opportunities to go other places from UMBC,” said Odom, who was 97-60 in five years with the Retrievers. “They never were the right fit for me and my family. This is the right fit. We want to be a top-25 team year in and year out, we want to advance in the NCAA Tournament. We have the support here in order to do that.”
Hartwell doesn’t just want Odom to build on what Craig Smith started, but to take the Aggies basketball program to the next level.
“It’s not about getting to the NCAA Tournament,” Hartwell said. “It’s about winning games in the NCAA Tournament. This guy has done it before, and he knows how to do it.”
Utah State hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2001.
Odom takes over a team that is losing star center Neemias Queta to the NBA Draft, and Alphonso Anderson and Kuba Karwowski to the transfer portal. But they do have Justin Bean, Rollie Worster and Steven Ashworth back to lead a talented young corps that went 20-9, ending with a loss to Texas Tech in the Big Dance.
“We’re losing a lottery pick in that young man,” Odom said about Queta. “He’s obviously a great player. I think the biggest thing for me is getting in the gym with these guys. I think my style of coaching fits what the roster is set for right now.”
Odom is familiar with Utah. His brother Lane is a scout with the Jazz based in South Carolina, and he actually got engaged to his wife Lucia on a trip to Utah. Odom says he is fully aware of the passion of Utah State fans.
“Walking in the Spectrum, walking in that tunnel, imagining in my head the HURD, the crowd and the home court advantage,” Odom said. “It’s not like that everywhere. That’s why I’m here.”
Odom will earn roughly $800,000 per year in base salary over a five-year contract.