“Eager to put down roots.”

That is a phrase that should make Utah State men’s basketball fans perk up.

After a run of coaches — five in the last 14 years and three in the last four years alone — the Aggies announced the latest leader of their men’s basketball program — former Youngstown State coach Jerrod Calhoun.

“Jerrod Calhoun embodies all the qualities we are looking for as the next leader of our men’s basketball program. He is energetic, enthusiastic, a player’s coach and is motivated to keep our current student-athletes in Logan.”

—  USU athletic director Diana Sabau

First reported Friday by ESPN’s Pete Thamel, Utah State made the news official Saturday morning, making Calhoun the 22nd head men’s basketball coach at Utah State University.

“Jerrod Calhoun embodies all the qualities we are looking for as the next leader of our men’s basketball program,” USU athletic director Diana Sabau said in a statement. “He is energetic, enthusiastic, a player’s coach and is motivated to keep our current student-athletes in Logan. He is a formidable recruiter, an exceptional motivator, and has a keen understanding of the competitive nature of NIL and will be a great partner in growing the Blue A Collective.”

Said Utah State president Elizabeth Cantwell: “Utah State is getting an excellent head coach and person in Jerrod Calhoun, who embodies our university values and our mission of excellence. Hiring Jerrod shows our commitment to our student-athletes and the Aggie basketball program.”

In Calhoun, USU gets a coach that rebuilt one of the more moribund programs in college basketball at Youngstown State. Prior to his tenure, the Penguins had had one 20-win season over a 37-year period. During his seven years, Calhoun had two 20-win campaigns, plus a 19-win campaign, and won the program’s first-ever conference championship in the Horizon League in 2022-23.

What Jerrod Calhoun said about taking the Utah State job

In an official statement, Calhoun may have said some magic words for Aggie fans so often burned by successful coaches leaving for brighter pastures — Craig Smith to Utah, Ryan Odom to VCU and Danny Sprinkle to Washington.

“I am honored that Diana and President (Elizabeth) Cantwell have entrusted me with the privilege of leading the storied Aggie program,” Calhoun said. “I could not be more excited about the opportunity to work alongside them. I look forward to making Aggie Nation proud of our program, both on and off the court, and competing for championships on an annual basis. Sarah, Jordan, Kendall, Kennedy, Quinn and I are eager to put down roots in Logan and get to work.”

What notable names in sports said about Jerrod Calhoun’s hire

Calhoun has ties to some notable names in sports, including but not limited to former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, Boston Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla and UCLA basketball coach Mick Cronin.

In prepared statements to Utah State, each — and others — praised the Aggies’ new leader.

Said Tressel: “Jerrod Calhoun is a first-class person that happens to be a very fine basketball coach. He is a family man first, and his wife, Sarah, will be an active partner in serving the Aggie student-athletes and the community. Coach Calhoun has made a profound impact on the YSU basketball family and the Youngstown region as a whole. Utah State and the city of Logan will be well-served by coach Calhoun and his staff. I am personally excited to watch the combination of AD Diana Sabau and coach Jerrod Calhoun as they seek excellence at Utah State. Two very fine people.”

Said Mazzulla: “Jerrod is a coach that I have learned from my entire career. He is a program builder and a connector of team and community. He is dedicated to building a program and a culture of success on and off the court.”

Said Cronin: “Jerrod Calhoun is one of the best young coaches in the country. Utah State has hired a tireless worker who is an innovative coach and a relentless recruiter. Coach Calhoun will continue the winning tradition at Utah State and do it with a modern tempo style of play.”

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UAB head basketball coach Andy Kennedy said of Calhoun: “Utah State has a rich history of basketball success and Jerrod Calhoun will add to that success immediately. Jerrod is one of the best young coaches in our profession and he will play a style that will excite that passionate fan base.”

Added Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Mike Gansey: “I have known Jerrod for a very long time, since we were in grade school, and he has always had a deep love and passion for the game of basketball. Even back then you could tell he was going to be a great head coach. He has worked his way up from Division II, to the mid-major level, and has been one of the best young coaches in college basketball the last couple years at Youngstown State. He will love his players and get the best out of them. I am so thrilled for Jerrod and his family.”

What to make of the hire of Jerrod Calhoun

Calhoun’s ties are strongly in Ohio and the surrounding region. He is from Cincinnati and attended the university of the same name where he got his undergraduate degree. He played two years of college basketball at Cleveland State for Rollie Massimino. He worked under former West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins from 2008-12, spending four years at WVU as the director of basketball operations before working as an assistant coach in 2011-12. He also worked at Fairmont State University in West Virginia.

Unfamiliarity with Utah and the Mountain West hasn’t been a problem for USU coaches in recent history, though, and Calhoun has proven to be the type of promising up-and-coming head coach that Utah State basketball has so readily found and thrived under.

His most recent team finished the year rated No. 138 on offense and No. 153 on defense, per KenPom, and his 2022-23 team that won the Horizon League championship was rated No. 47 on offense. Moreover, coming from the Huggins coaching tree, Calhoun’s defenses are known for their intensity and commitment.

By all accounts, Calhoun is a hire in the same vein as other successful ones made by the Aggies. He is the first hire made by Sabau during her tenure.