As the college basketball coaching carousel has gotten into full swing for 2021, Utah State’s Craig Smith has been linked to a number of open Power Five jobs. Most notably there were reports he was a front-runner at Minnesota before it hired Ben Johnson, and there have been reports he is being considered at Utah after Utah Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen and New York Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant removed their names from consideration.
But how does Smith’s resume compare with those of other current Power Five coaches when they moved into their current jobs?
Most coaches have been in the business for quite sometime by the time they get a Power Five job, but only a handful of the roughly 60 P5 coaches (there are 65 jobs combined in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC but some are vacant right now) have come directly from “mid-major” programs like Utah State, with mid-major being loosely defined as a non-P5 school from a conference that regularly gets multiple NCAA Tournament bids.
Meanwhile, about a quarter of P5 coaches (the Big East could be considered a power basketball conference, but for simplicity’s sake, we’re only including the football Power Five) moved from another P5 job while about half came from low-majors, loosely defined as schools whose conferences generally get just one bid to the NCAA Tournament each year. A couple of coaches came from the NBA or elsewhere.
Smith has been a college head coach for 10 seasons overall. He has a record of 225-107 with three NCAA Tournament appearances, all of which have come in his three seasons at Utah State (he has a record of 74-23 with the Aggies). Before that, he went 79-55 in four seasons at South Dakota. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at Colorado State, then Nebraska.
Before those stints, he was the head coach at NAIA Mayville State, where he had a record of 72-29 in three seasons with a national runner-up finish and another national quarterfinal finish. Mayville State made the NAIA national tournament in his first season after it won just one game the year before, falling in the first round.
Here’s a closer look at the resumes of P5 coaches who entered their current positions from mid-majors. One additional note: Conference realignment has made this exercise somewhat tricky, but we’re highlighting coaches who left a current mid-major program (i.e. schools that were and still are considered a mid-major) for a P5 program.
Kyle Smith, Washington State
- In three seasons at San Francisco, went 63-40. Prior to that, went 101-82 at Columbia. Was an assistant coach at Saint Mary’s, Air Force and San Diego before that.
Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech
- At Memphis, went 167-73 in seven seasons. Made four NCAA Tournaments, never got past second round. Before that, he was an assistant coach at Memphis and Arizona.
Chris Mack, Louisville
- In nine seasons at Xavier, went 215-97 with eight NCAA Tournaments. Made Elite Eight once, Sweet 16 two other times. Before that, he was an assistant at Xavier and Wake Forest and a high school head coach.
T.J. Otzelberger, Iowa State
- Went 29-30 in two seasons at UNLV with no NCAA Tournament appearances. Before that, he was head coach at South Dakota State for three seasons, going 70-33 with two NCAA Tournament appearances, both first-round exits. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Iowa State, Washington and Chipola College and a high school head coach.
Mick Cronin, UCLA
- Went 296-147 in 13 seasons at Cincinnati with nine NCAA Tournament appearances, including one Sweet 16 and four additional second-round appearances. Before that, he was head coach at Murray State, where he went 69-24 in three seasons with two NCAA Tournament appearances, both first-round exits. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Louisville, Cincinnati and at the high school level.
Sean Miller, Arizona
- Went 120-47 in five seasons at Xavier with four NCAA Tournament appearances, including one Elite Eight, one additional Sweet 16 and another second-round trip. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Xavier, NC State, Pittsburgh, Miami (OH) and a graduate assistant at Wisconsin.
Eric Musselman, Arkansas
- Went 110-34 in four seasons at Nevada with three NCAA Tournament appearances, including one Sweet 16. The other two trips were first-round exits. Prior to that, he was an associate head coach at LSU and Arizona State. Before that he held a number of jobs in the professional ranks, including time as head coach of the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.
Will Wade, LSU
- Went 51-20 in two seasons at VCU with two NCAA Tournament appearances. In the first, VCU got to the second round. Before that he was head coach at Chattanooga for two seasons, going 40-25. Prior to that he was an assistant at Harvard and VCU and a graduate assistant at Clemson.
John Calipari, Kentucky
- Went 214-68 in nine seasons at Memphis with six NCAA Tournament appearances. The Tigers made the national championship game in 2008, the Elite Eight two other times, the Sweet 16 one other time and the second round one other time. Prior to that he held a few NBA jobs, including a stint as head coach of the New Jersey Nets. That was preceded by eight years as head coach at UMass in which he went 189-70 with a Final Four berth, another trip to the Elite Eight, a Sweet 16 and two second-round appearances. Before UMass, he was an assistant at Kansas and Pittsburgh.
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