Utah State hires Danny Sprinkle as next head basketball coach

The former Montana State coach will take over for Ryan Odom.

This March 16, 2018 photo provided by California State University, Fullerton Athletics shows assistant basketball coach Danny Sprinkle at Little Caesar's Arena in Detroit. Sprinkle, a former Montana State guard, will be the Bobcats' new head coach. Sprinkle replaces Brian Fish, whose contract was not renewed after Montana State went 65-92 over the past five seasons. Sprinkle graduated from Helena High School and played for the Bobcats from 1995 to 1999. He was a freshman in 1996 when he scored 30 points to help the Bobcats win the Big Sky Tournament and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the last time they were there. (Emarie Espinosa/Cal State Fullerton Athletics via AP)

Just over a week after Utah State lost its head men’s basketball coach, interim athletics director Jerry Bovee found a replacement.

USU is hiring former Montana State coach Danny Sprinkle to the same role. Sprinkle replaces Ryan Odom, who left for VCU two years into his contract in Logan. It was first reported by Jeff Goodman at Stadium.

“We are thrilled to announce Danny Sprinkle as Utah State’s new men’s basketball head coach,” Bovee said in a prepared statement. “Danny checked all the boxes we were looking for as he is driven, energetic and motivated. He is also an excellent coach and proven recruiter. His skill set aligns perfectly with our mission of developing outstanding student-athletes on and off the basketball court, competing for conference championships and advancing to postseason play.”

Sprinkle played at Montana State from 1996-2000. After being a four-year starter in Bozeman, he built his coaching career in Los Angeles as an assistant at Cal State Northridge.

He spent six years on Bobby Braswell’s staff there, winning two conference championships. He briefly went back to Montana State for two seasons as an assistant from 2007-08, but then returned to Northridge for five more years.

Once Braswell and the Northridge staff were let go in 2013, Sprinkle moved 30 miles south to coach at Cal State Fullerton for six seasons as an assistant. He built a strong recruiting base in the Los Angeles area, that he continues to actively use.

In 2019, Sprinkle was hired as Montana State’s head coach. Working at his alma mater, he won 81 games over the last four years and went to two NCAA Tournaments. This last season, Montana State lost to Kansas State 77-65 in the first round.

“I want to thank President (Noelle) Cockett and Jerry Bovee for their belief in me,” Sprinkle said. “As for the Spectrum, it is one of the best home-court atmospheres in the country, and I can’t wait to work with The HURD and get that place rocking.”

Sprinkle’s hire occurs against the backdrop of a chaotic last few weeks in Logan.

USU made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two years last month, losing quickly to Missouri in the first round. Two weeks later, Odom left to return to the east coast with three years remaining on his contract.

While Bovee said he wasn’t blindsided by Odom’s move, he did say he expected Odom to finish out his contract.

“We had no reason to believe [Odom] wouldn’t be here to fulfill his contract, but we’re living in crazy times,” Bovee told The Salt Lake Tribune.

That move forced Bovee to head up a coaching search with the interim tag still attached to his name. Bovee was adamant that the coaching search, and the caliber of coaches interested in the job, were not influenced by his current status.

Perhaps of more concern for USU is its recent track record of losing coaches early. Before Odom, Craig Smith also left Logan before his deal expired to take the University of Utah job.

Sprinkle comes into a program that just lost three starters to the transfer portal. Max Shulga, Sean Bairstow and Steven Ashworth have all announced their decisions to enter the portal in the past week. They combined for nearly 38 points per game last year, with Ashworth being the team’s leading scorer.