Utah State men’s basketball coach Craig Smith will not get Minnesota job

Smith was reportedly to interview with the Golden Gophers, but the university announced another hire.

Utah State head coach Craig Smith yells toward the court against Saint Mary's during the second half of a NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Less than a week after the Utah State men’s basketball team got eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Texas Tech, it appeared coach Craig Smith was kicking the tires on another job. But that possibility faded quickly.

A Minneapolis-St. Paul television station reported Monday that Smith was expected to receive an in-person interview for job opening at the University of Minnesota. That job is available because Richard Pitino was fired from there about a week ago.

Later Monday, however, ESPN reported that Xavier assistant Ben Johnson was hired by the Golden Gophers. The university confirmed that in an announcement.

Smith has coached the Aggies for the past three seasons and led them to an NCAA Tournament berth in each of them. He has repeatedly stated how much he and his family love living in Logan, and recently said he wants to continue “building this thing” at Utah State due to the team’s “bright future.”

There was certainly allure to the situation in Minnesota. First of all, it’s in Smith’s home state. Smith is from Stephen, a small town with a population of less than 700 people. His family still lives there, and it’s about a 5-and-a-half-hour drive from the university to his hometown.

Also, the Golden Gophers play in the Big 10, which is a Power 5 conference. With that could have come more resources, top-notch facilities and a potentially more attractive destination for recruits. And Smith has already proven what he can do with talents like Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta.

Smith’s name will likely be thrown around for other open positions in college basketball, including at the University of Utah, from which Larry Krystkowiak was fired last week.

It’s worth noting that Smith signed a contract extension last December through the 2025-26 season. Should he leave, his buyout figure would be about $1.063 million.

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