The offseason of San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher just got a little busier. Now he has to hire an assistant coach.
Aztecs associate head coach Justin Hutson was introduced as the new head coach at Fresno State on Thursday, replacing Rodney Terry after he left for UTEP last month. Hutson was chosen from a deep field of candidates that reportedly included two current head coaches and several assistants from programs in power conferences.
For Hutson, it's a return to the San Joaquin Valley. He grew up in Bakersfield, where his father, Mark, was a legendary high school coach and recently was inducted into the area's sports hall of fame. He played at Bakersfield, winning a pair of NCAA Division II national championships. And he coached at Bakersfield High before launching a successful college career on the bench.
"It's not too often do you get a chance to have such a great opportunity and your dream job mixed in one, and that's what we have in Fresno," Hutson said. "This is home for me. The green V (on jerseys) means a lot to me."
Said Fresno State President Joseph Castro: "He understands what it means to live in the Valley."
Hutson introduced family members who attended the news conference at the Save Mart Center. He also introduced "my fiancée," SDSU women's head coach Stacie Terry. It was the first public acknowledgement of a relationship that has been kept quiet outside the athletic department.
Terry is 59-93 in five seasons after replacing Beth Burns in 2013 and has two years left on her contract. SDSU officials said they expect her to remain as head coach despite them living in 330 miles apart.
Hutson had been on staffs at SDSU under Steve Fisher and then Dutcher for 10 total years, separated by a two-year detour to UNLV. His primary responsibilities were recruiting and defense, as well as the staff's de facto disciplinarian, which complicates finding a replacement with similar skill sets.
Since Hutson returned from UNLV in 2013-14, the Aztecs ranked seventh, fifth, fourth, 28th and 30th nationally in defensive efficiency, according to respected metric Kenpom.com. In 2015-16, they were No. 1 in Division I in defensive field-goal percentage at .373.
"Way back when we hired Justin (in 2006), we felt like we were getting someone who could help our program grow and grow himself, and both of those things happened," said Steve Fisher, who now has three former assistants as Mountain West head coach (Dutcher and UNLV's Marvin Menzies being the others). "I am excited for him and saddened that he will no longer be with us. He will do a great job."
There will be plenty of candidates to replace him. Dutcher said he had already heard from assistants with programs in the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC, as well as current head coaches. He indicated that "I'll take my time," waiting a month or two to sift through resumes and conduct interviews.
It likely will be the first time in more than a decade that the program has gone outside the Aztecs "family" to hire an assistant, after consistently promoting from within.
Unless he can find a like-for-like replacement, Dutcher will have to decide what type of assistant to add — a recruiter or Xs and Os specialist — and compensate with his current staff in the other areas. Tim Shelton, who played for Hutson in high school and was his first recruit at SDSU, is expected to remain on the SDSU bench after being promoted from video coordinator to full-fledged assistant coach last year and could have a larger role in the defense, being one of the best defensive post players in SDSU history.
"We'll sit down and, with Coach Fisher's guidance, we'll start working our way through the list of candidates," said Dutcher, who was on the road recruiting in Texas on Thursday. "Some of them are very good friends of mine. Some of them I'd like to meet and get to know.
"There are a lot of people out there. I just have to find the right one. I've learned from Coach Fisher in that regard. You bring people in, you learn what their strengths are and you delegate. Everybody is different. I may have to assume a different role from what I did last year."
Hutson reportedly will receive a five-year contract that starts at $500,000 per season, which would be $100,000 less than what Terry received for 2017-18. Terry's contract, however, had no buyout, allowing him to leave for UTEP for nothing despite three years remaining at Fresno State. Hutson's deal is expected to include a buyout provision.
He inherits a Fresno State team that went 21-11 and defeated SDSU twice in the regular season, then lost to the Aztecs in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West tournament.
Much of the roster returns, and it sounds like that might include Deshon Taylor. The first team all-conference guard can graduate and transfer this spring, but he told the Fresno Bee after Hutson was introduced: "I don't feel like I'm going to do that. I'm committed to this program."
Also expected back for the Bulldogs are third team all-conference forward Bryson Williams, Jahmel Taylor, Sam Bittner, Nate Grimes and San Marcos High alum Johnny McWilliams. Long Beach State transfer Noah Blackwell will be eligible as well.
"It's not a rebuild," Dutcher said. "He's fortunate like I was in that he's taking over a team that's returning starters, including two all-conference players. He's getting a job that's perfect for him."
Hutson, 46, was asked if intends this to be his last job.
"Yes, I do, and I hope it's a long time from now," Hutson said. "You can never promise where you're going to be, but I'm not looking to jump anywhere. I love this place. It's home for me."