Logan • Everyone quietly filed into the Wayne Estes Center on Monday morning — just as they had done in 2021 and 2018 before that.
Fans, donors and the remaining players on the Utah State roster made their way through the entrance, trudged down the stairs and out onto the practice facility where a podium and chairs were rolled out for the introduction of the next head coach.
“I feel like we were just here,” one fan said, cutting through the silence as he got downstairs.
“I know,” another responded with a timid laugh. “What was it like two years ago? Maybe this coach will stay longer.”
And a few minutes later, Danny Sprinkle walked out onto the floor on cue as the fight song blasted through the speakers. He didn’t know the words, didn’t know the hand gestures, but he played along as the fans tried to teach another coach their traditions on the fly. By the end of the song he caught on — the fans are good at quickly bringing along the new person by now.
It isn’t Sprinkle’s fault he is new. But he arrives in a town where a fanbase is having whiplash from meeting new coaches, embracing them, and seeing them go too soon. Craig Smith was introduced in 2018, then left three years later for Utah. Ryan Odom was introduced in 2021, then left two years later for VCU.
So Sprinkle knew one of the main questions would be, “Are you going to stick around?”
“That is my plan. I don’t have plans on going anywhere,” Sprinkle told The Salt Lake Tribune. “You know, I don’t think Craig and Ryan did either. Sometimes it is just circumstance and timing. Obviously, Ryan is an east coast guy and it just so happened that [VCU] job opened up. Obviously I can’t speak for them. But I can’t imagine when they took that job they said, ‘Oh I am going to be here two years and then get out.’ Obviously they have laid a great foundation and were very successful.”
Of course, whatever is said during an introductory first day shouldn’t be taken as gospel. But for the better part of an hour as Sprinkle and the Utah State brass introduced their third head coach in five years, they tried to paint him as different from either Smith or Odom. Those two didn’t have connections to Utah State or the area, this coach does.
Sprinkle is a Montana kid — grew up in the state, went to college and coached at Montana State. Because of how close it was to Utah, he watched the Aggies. His dad would tell him stories about seeing Utah State legend Wayne Estes play in Great Falls, Mont.
“Everybody in Montana knows Wayne Estes,” Sprinkle said. “That means a lot. I know the names. Jaycee Carroll. Spencer Nelson.”
As a coach, Sprinkle cut his teeth in the Big West Conference going up against Utah State every year. One of his first seasons as an assistant at Cal State Northridge, his team went up to the Spectrum against Utah State, and Sprinkle left with stories that would stick with him for years.
He said the student section started chanting MC Hammer songs at head coach Bobby Braswell to make fun of the mustard-colored dress pants he was wearing.
“All of us on the bench, we were trying our hardest to keep our players focused,” Sprinkle laughed. “Those are the things that obviously make the Spectrum special. ... This is a loyal fanbase. You turn on games right now in the Pac-12 right now and you see 3,000, 4,000 fans in those arenas. That will never happen here.”
As he laid out his plan for USU, he leaned into that local aspect and the history. He said he wanted to recruit players from Utah and will hire assists from the state. He said his program would mimic the days ofStew Morrill, the legendary coach who led the Aggies for 17 years. He talked about his comfort in recruiting out west of Salt Lake City where Smith and Odom struggled.
“First of all you have to recruit Utah,” Sprinkle said. “That has to be our major footprint. We have to get the best Utah kids. But then you have to go to Southern California, Phoenix, Washington and Northwest Oregon. Because they know Utah State and they know what it is about. And it is a direct flight. They know about our league. You got kids in Vegas, they see us playing against UNLV. San Diego State is Southern California.”
And once Sprinkle was done reassuring the fanbase he was different from the past two early deserters, interim athletics director Jerry Bovee did his best to make the case for why Sprinkle will stay too.
He had Sprinkle over for dinner at his house last week and the two talked about Sprinkle’s father, who worked in high school athletics. Bovee’s background is at the high school level in Utah. Bovee said it eased him, knowing the type of person he is.
He also said, unlike Odom’s hiring, having Sprinkle come to campus before he was hired was the right way to go about it, since “sight unseen hirings weren’t the way to hire a coach.”
“Danny comes from good stock,” Bovee said. “I interviewed 10 to 12 coaches. There were another 10 to 12 that were interested, that we just didn’t get to. There was a lot of interest. Only three were assistant coaches. There were Power Five coaches interested all across the country. We needed to find the right person. It is a unique job.”
As the day’s news conference was wrapping up, fans started coming up to Sprinkle. They hoped in another two years they wouldn’t be filing back into the Wayne Estes Center to meet Sprinkle’s replacement. And for at least the first day, they felt at ease they wouldn’t.
“I told him long before he got to campus, there is no better place to live than Logan,” Bovee said. “We are here to stay as a family. And I hope he is here to stay for a long, long time.”