SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 27, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — University of Utah Director of Athletics Mark Harlan announced Saturday that Craig Smith will serve as the 16th head coach of the Runnin’ Utes men’s basketball program.
Smith replaces former coach Larry Krystkowiak, who was fired on March 16.
Smith takes over at Utah after leading his teams to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths and two Mountain West Conference Tournament championships in his three seasons as head coach at Utah State University.
Smith compiled a record of 74-24 at Utah State and has a career record of 225-108 (.676) in 10 years as a collegiate head coach, says a statement issued by U of U Basketball. Smith led the Aggies to the 2021 NCAA tournament as the Mountain West’s second-place finisher with a 20-9 record, posting a 20-win season for the third year in a row.
“Craig Smith brings incredible energy and passion, and a proven record of success,” Harlan said. “I’m thrilled to have him lead our men’s basketball program, and look forward to our student-athletes experiencing his incredible work ethic, dedication to being a teacher of the game, and his ability to relate with his players and help them achieve their greatest potential.”
In 25 years of collegiate coaching experience, including 10 as a head coach, Smith has been to postseason play 13 times, while winning four regular season and four postseason conference championships. He has earned four conference coach of the year awards (2006, 2007, 2017, 2019) in three different conferences and was named NAIA II National Coach of the Year Award in 2007, the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) District 12 Coach of the Year Award in 2017, and NABC District 17 Coach of the Year and USBWA District VIII Coach of the Year in 2019.
“My family and I are thrilled to join the University of Utah and the community of Salt Lake City,” Smith said. “The Utah men’s basketball program has fantastic leadership at the top in Director of Athletics Mark Harlan and his executive team. After visiting with Mark, it became clear that our visions for Utah Basketball were aligned. This program has a rich tradition of excellence in the history of college basketball. Our facilities are state-of-the-art and first-class in every way.
“Our fan base has tremendous energy, knowledge and passion. We can’t wait to pack the Huntsman Center, feed off the energy of The MUSS and bring a consistent winner back to the U!”
In his first year at Utah State, Smith led the Aggies to a 28-7 record, the most wins by a first-year head coach in USU history and the third-most wins overall in school history. USU advanced to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed, the highest in program history. His second Utah State team in 2019-20 won its second consecutive MWC Tournament Championship to earn the MW’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, and finished 26-8.
The Aggies also excelled in the classroom under Smith, earning an NCAA Division I-best seven NABC Honors Court accolades in 2020, while eight student-athletes earned a total of 13 academic All-MW awards and six more have earned a total of nine MW scholar-athlete accolades in his first two years.
In addition to his three highly-successful seasons leading the Utah State program, Smith was head coach at the University of South Dakota from 2014-17, where he compiled a 79-55 record, and head coach at Mayville State from 2005-07 (72-29).
Between his head coaching stints at Mayville State and South Dakota, Smith spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Nebraska (2012-14) and Colorado State (2007-12), helping lead the Cornhuskers to the 2014 NCAA Tournament and the Rams to the 2012 NCAA Tournament. While at CSU, Smith also helped the Rams advance to the 2010 CBI Tournament and the 2011 NIT.