Report: Craig Smith Finalizing Contract to Be Utah Men's Basketball Head Coach

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2021

FILE- In this Friday, March 12, 2021, file photo, Utah State head coach Craig Smith reacts to a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado State in the semifinal round of the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas. Utah State and Texas Tech meet in a first-round game in the South Region on Friday. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)
Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

Utah State men's basketball head coach Craig Smith is reportedly "finalizing" a contract to take over the same position at Utah.

CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reported Saturday an announcement of the hire is expected "soon."

Smith is coming off a terrific three-year run at Utah State. He guided the Aggies to a 74-24 record (.755 winning percentage), including a 20-9 mark during the 2020-21 season. They qualified for the NCAA tournament in all three seasons, though the 2020 event was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

They were eliminated from this year's edition of March Madness last week with a 65-53 loss to sixth-seeded Texas Tech in the first round.

Smith has steadily worked his way through the coaching ranks. His first opportunity to lead a staff came at NAIA program Mayville State from 2004 through 2007.

The 48-year-old Minnesota native then spent time at Colorado State and Nebraska before returning to a head coaching role in 2014 at South Dakota. He complied at 79-55 record (.590) with the Coyotes before taking over at Utah State.

Now he'll take over a Utah program that fired Larry Krystkowiak, who had served as head coach since 2011, after failing to reach the NCAA tournament in five straight seasons.

The Utes were a program on the rise during the middle of Krystkowiak's tenure, reaching the Sweet 16 in 2015 as part of a two-year stretch where it posted a 53-18 record, but that success faded.

Smith, who was also expected to interview for the Minnesota coaching vacancy, will be tasked with getting the program back on a winning track following its 12-13 record in 2020-21. It was the Utes' first losing season in eight years.

His accolades include being voted the 2017 Summit League Coach of the Year at South Dakota and the 2019 Mountain West Coach of the Year at Utah State.