We don't really know Justin Hutson, introduced Thursday as the 19th men's basketball coach in Fresno State history. So I asked three people close to him.
Starting with his dad, Mark Hutson. Who happens to be the winningest coach in Central Section history, with the bulk of those 511 victories coming during a storied tenure at Bakersfield High.
What's the first thing you would tell someone about Justin?
"He wears his heart on his sleeve, his kids mean something to him and he's going to work," Mark Hutson said.
Moving on to Clovis resident Doc Lewis, Justin Hutson's high school teammate and current host of a Sunday morning gospel show on KSFR (90.7 FM).
"The first thing I would tell someone is he's a good guy," Lewis said. "Very down to Earth and loves people."
And concluding with fiancee Stacie Terry. Who happens to be the women's basketball coach at San Diego State, the Mountain West rival where Hutson spent 10 seasons as an assistant.
"He's a blue-collar guy," Terry said. "He does the work. And he's not going to ask anybody else to do something he's not willing to do."
(Yes, the new men's basketball coach at Fresno State is getting married to the San Diego State women's coach. How's that going to work? "Good question," Terry replied with a chuckle. "I'll let you know when I know.")
Hutson grew up in Bakersfield, 110 miles south of Fresno, and yet his introductory news conference at Save Mart Center felt like a homecoming. His Valley roots were in full flower while introducing his father, stepmom, two daughters and two "favorite aunts" who live in Fresno. Twice he referred to his new job as his "dream job."
"This is home for me," Hutson said.
He knew all about Fresno State's hardwood past starting with Boyd Grant, who once sat in the Hutsons' living room while on a recruiting trip and gave an 8-year-old Justin a Bulldogs T-shirt, all the way through to immediate predecessor Rodney Terry.
He knew about the significance of the Green V football helmet decal, which remains the school's best marketing idea all these years later. And when Jervis Cole went up afterward to introduce himself, Hutson looked up at the 6-foot-6 former Bulldogs forward, grinned and said, "I know who you are."
"He wanted to be here, you know?" Mark Hutson said. "In Bakersfield we always had a lot of respect for Fresno State."
"I've never seen him more excited than when they called and said, 'Hey, (the job's) yours.' " Stacie Terry said.
Justin Hutson's first coaching job came at Bakersfield High, where he mentored the freshman squad during Mark's tenure as varsity coach. Justin was fresh out of Cal State Bakersfield, where he led the Roadrunners to two NCAA Division II national titles. Before that, he held summer jobs in the cotton fields and melon sheds.
Dad wasn't about to let him sit around the house.
"If you wanted something, you had to work for it," Hutson said. "I actually walked up and down the rows (of cotton plants) and picked the weeds out. And I worked in the melon sheds where you had to push the melons down to the packers so they could pack them into crates.
"It was tough work."
The first impression Hutson will make on Bulldogs fans and players is with his voice. The 46-year-old hardly needed the row of microphones in front of him as media, university staff, boosters, dignitaries and 10 current players crammed into a small room for the news conference.
Hutson's husky, booming baritone could've been heard out on the arena floor, where crews were setting up for a concert.
"I know I'm loud," he said. "I know I get loud."
So loud it makes you wonder if any of Hutson's teachers ever asked him to use his "inside voice."
"I don't think that he has an inside voice," Terry said.
Hutson will need all the volume he can muster to elevate a program that has been muted for the better part of a decade, despite its recent run of success. His challenge will be not just to win, but to reinvigorate a dormant fan base that on most game days makes the cavernous arena feel like a mausoleum.
Unlike Rodney Terry, who essentially started from ground zero, Hutson inherits a talented roster that will be expected to challenge for MW titles and NCAA appearances right away. (Some of that depends on the return of all-conference guard Deshon Taylor, who said Thursday he would not transfer to another school but left the NBA door ajar.)
And when Hutson started talking about his coaching hallmarks, the words "defense" and "toughness" were prevalent. Two words Bulldogs fans are long accustomed to hearing.
"The base will be there," Hutson said. "The guys already know how to play hard, so I'm excited just to put my wrinkle on it."
While best known for his recruiting prowess, Hutson was allowed by San Diego State coaches Steve Fisher and Brian Dutcher to spread his wings. He ran the Aztecs' defense, drew up practice plans and was involved in skill development and player discipline. It was a resume that made Hutson one of the MW's most sought-after assistants.
"There wasn't a situation in the program I didn't have my hands on," he said.
Every time a head coaching job in the league opened up (New Mexico, Nevada), Hutson's name was on the short list. Except someone else always got the job.
"Justin has barely missed here, he's barely missed there and then all of a sudden the place he wants to be opens up and he gets the job," Mark Hutson said. "We're fortunate it worked out."
For a coach who has paid his dues, Thursday felt like a long time coming. For Fresno State, it also felt like the right fit.