For new Utah State basketball coach Ryan Odom, making, and advancing in the NCAA Tournament is the new standard

Odom says he wants the Aggies to be a Top 25 team “year in and year out” and wants to incorporate a style of play and schedule with eyes on winning games in the Big Dance.

(Photo courtesy of Utah State Athletics) New Utah State basketball coach Ryan Odom lays out his plan for the Aggie program during his introductory press conference on April 7, 2021.

Ryan Odom’s journey to become the new men’s basketball coach at Utah State started 21 years ago.

Odom and his then-girlfriend Lucia chose to vacation in Utah to spend some time together. During that trip, he popped the question, she said yes and they started their life together.

“It’s come full circle for us,” Odom said during his introductory press conference. “We’ve been on this journey together. I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for her as well and her willing to go on this journey with me.”

That journey has taken Odom around the southern and eastern parts of the United States, from assistant job to assistant job, eventually to head coaching in 2015. After seven years of leading teams, he’s back in Utah, this time for a much longer time.

Odom signed a five-year contract worth just shy of $4 million. If Utah State decides to end the contract at any point, the school owes him 75% of what’s remaining on the deal. If Odom terminates the agreement in Year 1 or 2, he owes USU 50% of the prorated amount remaining on the contract. If he does so between Year 3 and 5, he owes USU 35%

Utah State Athletic Director John Hartwell said Odom quickly distinguished himself as “the right guy” to not only maintain the success the Aggies have enjoyed in recent years, but expand it.

“It’s not about getting to the NCAA Tournament,” Hartwell said. “It’s [about] winning games in the NCAA Tournament. This guy has done it before. He knows how to do it.”

Odom made a name for himself in 2018 when his former team, the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers, as a No. 16 seed beat the No. 1 seed Virginia. It was the first time in NCAA history that a No. 16 beat a No. 1.

Former Aggies coach Craig Smith, who is now coaching at the University of Utah, led the Aggies to three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, but only played two games after the coronavirus pandemic canceled the 2020 tournament. The Aggies lost both games.

Odom’s only appearance at the Division I level was that 2018 upset win.

Odom said he chose Utah State because of its storied history in basketball. He wants the Aggies to be a Top 25 team “year in and year out” and advance in the NCAA Tournament. He also said he wants to be “the most efficient team in the Mountain West.”

“We have the support here in order to do that,” Odom said. “It’s on us to get it done, and that’s what we’ll work toward every day.”

Odom spoke in generalities when it came to when he will round out his coaching staff and how he will approach recruiting for the upcoming season. But he did say that he does not consider the situation a rebuild.

Odom wants to be efficient at both ends of the court, he said — stingy and sound on defense; and scoring by way of 3-pointers, layups and free throws. He also wants to play fast with multiple ball-handlers and playmakers trying to hit the open man.

“I think my style of coaching fits the way the roster is set for right now,” Odom said.

When it comes to scheduling, it appears Odom will employ a similar tactic as Smith, who liked to play games against tougher nonconference opponents in order to prime USU for strong performances in its conference.

“We’re going to make sure that we’re scheduling for the NCAA Tournament here at Utah State,” Odom said. “And the only way you do that is to play really good competition.”