Utah Head Coach Craig Smith In Awe Of ‘Huntsman Magic’

Dec 9, 2023, 10:31 PM | Updated: Dec 11, 2023, 12:06 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s been a long time since the Huntsman Center was full and rocking. In fact, the last sellout was when Utah men’s basketball hosted UCLA back in 2017.

Utah head coach Craig Smith was coaching at South Dakota then. Most of his players would have been about junior high age.

There is no doubt taking the Utah job has been an uphill battle for Smith and his guys the past three seasons, but they stuck with it. Restoring a once-proud program to relevancy is unfortunately much harder than destroying it.

Saturday night’s game against rival, No. 14 BYU felt symbolic of turning the corner for the Utes, not just because they got the win, but because people cared enough to show up and bring back the “Huntsman Magic” as Smith called it in his post-game comments.

Bringing Back The “Huntsman Magic”

Smith is not only a basketball nut, but a lover of history too. He often combines his two passions (he’s said in the past Utah’s rich basketball history is partly what drew him to the job), and it’s shown up in small details over his three seasons with the Utes.

Whether he’s pulled video and newspaper clippings from some of the Runnin’ Utes’ biggest moments in history for hype videos or calling on the many all-time-great alums that have donned a Utah uniform to inspire his team, Smith has been working toward bringing back the magic of the Huntsman Center and it came to fruition in a big way Saturday night.

“It was the first sellout crowd since 2017,” Smith said in his post-game comments. “So many people impact winning. Basketball is a player’s game. I’ve always said that. As coaches, you have to do the best job you can obviously to put guys in a position to succeed and position of strength, connectivity, and build your team a certain way. Obviously, administration impacts winning. The coaching staff impacts winning, but fans impact winning in an elite way.”

“You could feel their energy all night long,” Smith continued. “They just willed us through some tough times there in that second half. I can’t thank our fans enough for coming out, showing up, and showing out the way that they did. We want to get this Huntsman magic back. This place is an elite home court when we have it packed like that. I’ve never felt that- that was my first time experiencing it like this.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Head Coach Craig Smith In Awe Of ‘Huntsman Magic’