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Utah State Aggies head coach Craig Smith claps in Provo on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. BYU won 95-80. (Deseret News)
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Craig Smith Has Strong Impact On USU In First Season

LOGAN, Utah – His first season as Utah State head coach hasn’t ended yet, but Craig Smith has made a strong first impression on Aggie fans.

Utah State has an 18-5 record this season, which is the most wins since the 2014-15 season, but they still have 8 games remaining in the regular season.

Last season, the Aggies went 17-17, leading to the coaching vacancy that Smith now holds.

Smith began his coaching career at Mayville State – an NAIA school – as an assistant coach in 1996-97. He would later become the head coach from 2004-07, his first head coaching job of his career.

After stints as an assistant coach at Colorado State and Nebraska, Smith was hired as the South Dakota head coach for four seasons from 2014-18, where he compiled a 79-55 record.

Drawing Him To Logan

Smith was hired by Utah State from South Dakota, where he spent four years as the head coach. In 2017, the Coyotes won the Summit League Regular Season title. Before he was named the head coach of the Aggies, Smith knew about Utah State and Aggie fans from his time as an assistant coach with Colorado State.

One of his responsibilities with the Rams was to scout opponents, which some of those teams played Utah State and the atmosphere of the Spectrum caught his attention right away.

“You could feel it through the television screen,” Smith said.

He continued to keep an eye on Utah State as he progressed in his coaching career and following the 2017-18 campaign, Smith received a call from Utah State about their head coaching vacancy.

“The state of Utah has a rich tradition of basketball with the Jazz, Utes, BYU and Utah State,” he said.

Smith was drawn by how friendly and family oriented that the Logan community is. It reminded him of his hometown of Stephen, Minnesota.

Earning Respect

Utah State was predicted by the media to finish in ninth place in the Mountain West Conference Preseason Poll. The Aggies are currently in second place behind No. 6 Nevada.

“We have a tremendous group with great character,” Smith said. “They want to put Utah State basketball back on the national scene.”

Smith knows that the only purpose of the preseason poll has is the level of respect that your program has.

“Now we have to go earn our respect,” he said.

The players don’t necessarily have a chip on their shoulder but they want to get better and prove the voters wrong.

“Our expectations from day one was to get to the NCAA Tournament and win when we get there,” Smith said.

Magic Back In The Spectrum

It was mentioned in his introductory press conference on March 26, 2018, that coach Smith wants to bring the magic back to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.

“We have talked about it at length with our guys,” said Smith.

Utah State was dominant inside the Spectrum that included a 40-game winning streak at home from 2007-09. From 2007-11, the Aggies were 69-1 in the friendly confines of the Spectrum.

“We try to be the toughest basketball team,” he said. “We know what an advantage of playing in this place when it is packed. The energy, enthusiasm, spirit and atmosphere is contagious to winning.”

This season, the Aggies are 10-1 at home with their lone loss against Fresno State hitting the game-winning shot with five seconds left, leaving Utah State a heartbreaking loss.