New Fresno State basketball coach says playing tough defense pays off
Fresno State has hired Justin Hutson to be its next basketball coach.
Hutson is a Valley native who for the past five seasons has been an assistant at Mountain West Conference-rival San Diego State and brings a strong resume to the position both recruiting and on the floor.
Hutson grew up in Bakersfield and as a player won two Division II national championships at Cal State Bakersfield.
At San Diego State, he was one of the program's top recruiters. Hutson also was the Aztecs' defensive coordinator when the team was ranked Top 15 in the nation in scoring and field goal percentage defense for four consecutive seasons.
Hutson addressed the importance of defense in a 2016 interview with TV station Fox 5 San Diego: "I think if you look at teams in any sport that play good defense, they're always going to be on the top half of their conference."
In two stints at San Diego State, Hutson was the primary recruiter on NBA Draft picks Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin and Xavier Thames and in 2013 was tabbed as the eight best recruiter in the nation in a poll of Division I coaches conducted by ESPN, and the best on the West Coast.
Hutson is expected to receive a five-year contract worth $500,000 in the first season. The deal likely will include a buyout, which Fresno State did not have in its contract with Rodney Terry, who bolted after seven seasons to move to Texas-El Paso with two all-conference players returning in guard Deshon Taylor (first team) and forward Bryson Williams (third) and three years remaining on his contract.
Terry was 126-108 (.538), winning 20 or more games the past three seasons and in four of the past five. That run included a NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016, the Bulldogs' first since 2001, and a spot in the NIT the following season.
Fresno State this season was 21-11 and 11-7 and in fourth place in the Mountain West, losing in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament to San Diego State.
In a search that suffered from poor optics with an interim tag on athletic director, an under-funded program and few signs of life in a once-fervent fan base, Hutson, Fresno State assistant coach Byron Jones, Oregon assistant coach Tony Stubblefield and Marquette assistant coach Stan Johnson were the finalists. UCLA assistant David Grace, Cal State Fullerton coach Dedrique Taylor also were candidates for the job.