Let’s Speculate! Potential Utah State head basketball coach candidates
Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.
Today’s program is Utah State, coached by Ryan Odom since 2021 (left for VCU last week).
- Danny Sprinkle – Montana State head coach
- Sprinkle has done a fantastic job at his alma mater Montana State since taking over in 2019, going to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons and winning the Big Sky in 2022. He played high school basketball in Helena, MT before becoming a star on the Bobcats, helping lead them to their third-ever NCAA Tournament in 1996 and later inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. It would take a bigger and better job to get him to leave home and Utah State is definitely that. He’s making around $200K with bonuses right now, but USU could easily triple or quadruple that.
- Nate Dixon – Utah State assistant coach
- Dixon has worked under Ryan Odom for the last seven years (two at Utah State and five at UMBC) and has been named acting head coach until the official hire is made. But can and should be a candidate for the job, as someone who could (hopefully) provide continuity in Logan with the Aggies coming off 26 wins and a NCAA Tournament bid. Like Odom, Dixon is an East Coast guy who has spent much of his career – save for a brief stint as an assistant at Wyoming – on that side of the country.
- Chris Burgess – Utah assistant coach
- Another local assistant who should get a look is Burgess, who just finished his first year at Utah after three years at BYU and four at Utah Valley. The Utah-born and California-raised Burgess played at both Duke and Utah, then spent more than a decade trotting the globe as a professional. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience but has been a part of some successful teams thus far and has deep recruiting ties to the area.
- Barret Peery – UNLV assistant coach
- The former Portland State head coach may be a more realistic candidate at Utah Valley or his alma mater Southern Utah, but either way Peery is a Utah-native with head coaching experience who previously spent three years as an assistant at Utah (among other local schools). He left PSU in 2021 for a staff position at Texas Tech and then left there this past offseason (just in time) to head back West for a spot on Kevin Kruger‘s staff at UNLV.
- Mike Morrell – UNC Asheville head coach
- Two years ago, Utah State decided to hire a guy from the East Coast with no ties to the area and that worked out pretty well. Though the flip side is that as soon as Odom got the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament, he was pulled right back to Virginia. If Utah State wants to eschew local ties and just focus on a great coach and proven program builder, then Morrell is maybe the best option. After winning just four games in his first season, Morrell and the Bulldogs won the Big South this year and got back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
- Jon Judkins – Utah Tech head coach
- Judkins and the Trailblazers are still trying to get their footing in Division I after making the move up to the WAC in 2020. But Judkins has been the guy there for the last eighteen years, going to nine D-II NCAA Tournaments and winning eight league titles. He’s a SLC-native who played for Rod Tueller at Utah State (went to the NCAAT as a senior) and also had a 12-year stint as head coach at Snow College (UT). This may be too big of a leap right now, but USU can’t ignore the experience alum currently leading a D-I program down state.
- Steve Wojciechowski – former Marquette head coach
- The long-time Duke staffer got his head coaching opportunity in 2014 when he was hired at Marquette, but his tenure was underwhelming. He did take the Golden Eagles to two NCAA Tournaments but lost in the first round both time. He also finished below .500 twice – his first and last seasons in Milwaukee. You could chalk it up to a poor fit, as Wojo had no connection to the school or even the Midwest. Either way he is a guy with significant head coaching experience and has two National Championship rings from his time in Durham. Since his 2021 firing, he and his family moved to Park City, where his wife is from and he reportedly is loving life in Utah.