LOGAN — When Jerry Bovee last was in charge of hiring coaches, he wasn’t wearing blue.

The former athletic director at Weber State had plenty of previous experience, 10 years to be exact, when in 2019 he took the job of assistant AD at Utah State, his alma mater. He spent some four years handling business under the direction of AD John Hartwell, whom Bovee said had him heavily involved with everything in the athletic department.

“There’s more to do, more expectations, a bigger fanbase, more attendance at games, it’s just a bigger, more intensive experience, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s really the same work.” — Utah State interim AD Jerry Bovee

Then, as winter approached in the middle of what was blossoming into a special basketball season, things suddenly changed.

“It happened so quickly that I didn’t have much time to think much about it,” Bovee said.

Hartwell abruptly stepped down from his AD position and left USU last November; the school quickly named Bovee the interim AD. It was a job he knew well, but with a higher profile all around.

“It’s all relative,” Bovee said. “There’s more to do, more expectations, a bigger fanbase, more attendance at games, it’s just a bigger, more intensive experience, but on a day-to-day basis, it’s really the same work.”

Bovee stepped into the AD role just in time to oversee what was already a well-oiled machine keep chugging onward as Utah State’s men’s basketball team surged to a 26-win season and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Things then got even more interesting last week when Aggies head Ryan Odom bade farewell to the program after just two years, returning back toward his homeland in the form of VCU.

That leaves Bovee, who as an alum is distinctly familiar with the school’s rich history, with one heck of a task. Just four months into his tenure at a historically strong “basketball school,” before he’s even been able to shed his “interim” tag, it’s now up to him to make the hire for arguably the USU athletic department’s most important position.

“Pressure is what we put on ourselves,” Bovee said. “In the sense that this is my alma mater, and I’m in an interim role, I feel that pressure. We all, in the office, want to do what’s best for the Aggies and make our fanbase proud, and we owe it to the student-athletes. … There’s more intensity and more expectation to get it right.”

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During his time leading Weber State’s athletics, Bovee lost count of how many coaches he hired (“something around 15 to 20”), but one particular coaching hire turned out to be a massive home run: Jay Hill.

Hill was hired by Bovee in 2009 and went on to become the most successful football coach in Wildcats history, winning four straight Big Sky Conference titles and making WSU’s first-ever FCS semifinal appearance. Before accepting a position as BYU’s next defensive coordinator, he compiled a record of 68-39.

Bovee set up the interview with Hill on extremely short notice, calling him at 10 p.m. on a weeknight. The following morning, Bovee noticed Hill dropped a receipt for Kinko’s, where he had prepared his interview materials. It was timestamped for 2 a.m.

That experience told Bovee about Hill’s commitment and, more importantly, his grit. Those qualities are in high regard for Bovee as he searches for a hoops coach to take the helm at Utah State.

“I think those same characteristics transfer over,” Bovee said. “We’re looking for someone that can come in and see what we have to offer … we’re looking for someone who can survey that and find ways to be successful.”

There’s another thing that every USU coach has had to do well: get Cache Valley into the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum consistently.

One of the major factors in Utah State’s success this year was its storied homecourt advantage. A well-attended Spectrum has long been a nightmarish venue for visiting teams, and the arena was in full swing for most home games last season. It’s no coincidence that the Aggies went 14-2 at home, and the fan turnout, particularly late in the season, even during school breaks, is something Bovee and his staff are eager to maintain.

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When former Aggies coach Tim Duryea was fired by Hartwell in 2018, Hartwell confirmed to this reporter, then a student reporter at the Utah Statesman, that historically low attendance, both from paying fans and the student section, factored greatly into Duryea’s dismissal.

Former USU coach and current Utah Utes coach Craig Smith solved that issue seemingly overnight before Odom came in three years later, and the engagement persisted with the continued team success. The Aggies reportedly sold out their last two home games.

Simply put, the Aggies just don’t have the tolerance for a coach who can’t get the community on his side.

“It’s critical,” Bovee said. “Ultimately, we want to put a product on the floor that’s exciting for our fans to watch. … It’s not like you’re replacing a coach that has had struggles to win ballgames and attract fans. I believe this year we’ve been at an all-time high.”

For whomever Bovee hires, time is of the essence as the program’s ground becomes less fertile as the season progresses. Junior guard Max Shulga and senior guard Sean Bairstow, both starters, announced their decisions to enter the NCAA transfer portal on Monday, as did junior center Szymon Zapala.

More departures may come, and the sooner Bovee’s staff can get a new coach in the building, the sooner they can get to work on building a squad that can make Aggies fans proud all over again.

Jay Hill speaks with reporters at a press conference where he was introduced as the new head NCAA college football coach at Weber State University Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, in Ogden, Utah. New Utah State interim AD Jerry Bovee made that decision while at the Ogden school. Now he has another big decision to make in Logan. | Associated Press