The San Diego State men’s basketball team and its fans knew next season’s squad would have a very different look. With five seniors set to graduate and star forward Kawhi Leonard a possible NBA Lottery Pick, there was already plenty of uncertainty surrounding next year’s team.
But earlier this week, an unexpected departure rocked the Aztecs, and could change the entire complexion of the 2011-12 SDSU basketball team.
Assistant coach Justin Hutson, who was largely responsible for bringing in players such as Leonard, Tim Shelton, D.J. Gay and Billy White, left the Aztecs to accept a promotion and pay raise at UNLV.
“It was tough to leave those guys,” Hutson told the Las Vegas Review-Journal after his hiring. “I had recruited a lot of them and there were a lot of tears when I met with them (Monday).
“But this is one of the best jobs in the country and it’s a storied program. To come to Vegas and work for someone like Dave Rice, it’s a dream come true.”
With former UNLV head coach Lon Kruger departing for Oklahoma, UNLV turned to BYU assistant coach Dave Rice to run its basketball program. Rice immediately targeted Hutson, a man considered the mastermind behind SDSU’s suffocating defense, as his top assistant.
“(Hutson) is as good a recruiter as there is,” Rice told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Justin did an unbelievable job at San Diego State. Not only did he recruit most of their players, he did a great job coaching and he can teach the game.”
National outlets report Hutson will make nearly double the $95,000 he made as SDSU’s No. 2 assistant. He will also reportedly garner the title of associate head coach, which puts him one step closer to landing a head coaching gig sometime in the future.
But the move puts a serious dent in the Aztecs chances at a repeat Sweet 16 run.
“Damn Coach Hutson really gone smh (shaking my head) ima miss that man!!!” sophomore guard Xavier Thames tweeted after he heard the news.
“Justin has been with us for five years,” head coach Steve Fisher told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “He’s done a great job. He’s been a valuable, valuable part of this program in every regard. He’s very good — very good. He will be missed greatly.”