Jerrod Calhoun was fascinated by Utah State men’s basketball this past season.

It was hard not to be. The Aggies, despite failing to return anyone who had scored single point in the previous campaign, became a force within the Mountain West, capturing the regular-season crown and catching Calhoun’s fancy from all the way across the country.

Now, the former Youngstown State head coach will take the reins at Utah State and look to build off Danny Sprinkle’s success with the program.

“The Aggies became my favorite team last year,” Calhoun told reporters Tuesday at his introductory press conference in Logan. “I fell in love with this group of players. I told these guys if they come back and run it back, we can win a national championship. I truly believe that. I got hooked on these guys and the fanbase.”

Utah State basketball program a victim of its own success

Utah State won its first NCAA Tournament game since 2001 nearly two weeks ago, but Sprinkle’s departure to Washington made the team’s future appear murkier than desired. Calhoun, however, expects his Aggies to pick up right where they left off.

“This is not a rebuild, this is a reload,” Calhoun said. “We want to reload our talent, we want to develop our talent and we want to have a style that fans gravitate to coming to the Spectrum. ... I’m excited to work with these guys, I think we’re going to have a tremendous chemistry with one another and we’re ready to get started.”

Calhoun went 118-106 over seven seasons at the historically inept Youngstown State, taking the Penguins to their first-ever NIT appearance in 2023. He also posted a 124-38 mark in his five prior years at Division-II Fairmont State, now giving the Aggies a proven leader with consistent success under his belt.

“Logan fits us,” Calhoun said. “As we drove in here last night, we said this feels a little bit like West Virginia. The mountains are much prettier out here, but we feel at home, and I think that’s so important.”

Calhoun shared that he had spent time talking with former Aggies players and coaches since accepting the job this past weekend in an effort to understand the weight of his new assignment. “One thing they constantly said was how special Logan is and how special the Spectrum is. You get goosebumps going in there.”

“The Aggies became my favorite team last year. I fell in love with this group of players. I told these guys if they come back and run it back, we can win a national championship. I truly believe that. I got hooked on these guys and the fanbase.”

—  New USU coach Jerrod Calhoun

Youngstown State averaged 81.2 points, 40.0 rebounds and 15.3 assists per game under Calhoun this past year, and he shared his intention to implement a similar brand of basketball in Logan.

“My style is pretty simple. We want to play the right way. We want to stay connected and find advantages on the floor,” Calhoun said. “We want to be on the attack. We want to score in the 80s. We want to have a fun style to play.”

Only one Aggie — Mason Falslev — has hit the transfer portal since Sprinkle’s departure, and Calhoun shared that his “sole focus” is to keep the rest of Utah State’s existing core intact going forward. “This team is really, really talented, this team is connected, so we want to retain all of those guys.”

Fans in Logan have become frustratingly accustomed to a revolving door at the head coaching position, with Craig Smith, Ryan Odom and now Sprinkle all taking off for more lucrative offers elsewhere in the past three years. Calhoun stated he isn’t interested in going “one and done” with the Aggies, responding to one reporter’s closing question by saying he wouldn’t leave Utah State even if his squad won a national title this coming year.

“My girls are at an age where we don’t want to move, we like to really stay where we’re at, we have three little ones,” Calhoun said. “Hopefully we’ll get a big raise if (a national championship) happens.”

Youngstown State head coach Jerrod Calhoun shouts instructions from the bench during game against West Virginia, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Youngstown, Ohio. Calhoun was formally introduced as Utah State's new head coach in Logan on Tuesday. | David Dermer