Utah Utes basketball assistant Eric Peterson named head coach at University of South Dakota

Fourth-year junior forward Riley Battin entered the NCAA Transfer Portal earlier Tuesday

University of Utah men's basketball assistant coach Eric Peterson

University of Utah men’s basketball head coach Craig Smith incurred a significant loss to his program on Tuesday afternoon, and it had nothing to do with any player.

Eric Peterson, Smith’s lead assistant and a member of his coaching staffs at two stops prior to Utah, was announced as the new head coach at the University of South Dakota. A press conference is set for Wednesday morning in Vermillion.

Peterson was a Coyotes assistant under Smith from 2014-18, a period in which the program went 79-55, won the Summit League regular-season title in 2017, and advanced to the Summit League Tournament championship game in 2018. This will be his first head coaching job at the Division I level after he served as head coach of Williston State, a Division I junior college in North Dakota from 2011-14.

Peterson’s exit comes at the start of a particularly critical offseason for Smith, who went 11-20 in his first season with the Utes, capped by an 82-70 loss to Washington in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament last week.

Roster turnover is expected, although how drastic that will be remains to be seen. In losing Peterson, Utah loses its perceived ace recruiter, particularly abroad, where his recruiting wins include former Utah State star center Neemias Queta, who is now a rookie with the Sacramento Kings.

Peterson was the lead recruiter on Utah’s lone Class of 2022 commit to this point, Wilguens Exacte Jr., a 6-foot-5 Canadian-born shooting guard from NBA Academy Latin America.

With Peterson out and a sizable hole to fill on staff, Smith’s unofficial number of available scholarships for 2022-23 rose to two earlier Tuesday when multiple sources told The Tribune that fourth-year junior forward Riley Battin has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Battin, who entered the portal last spring upon Larry Krystkowiak’s firing before opting to play for Smith, saw his role and numbers dip this season as Utah struggled through January and into February. For his career, Battin played in 118 games, including all 31 this season, 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.

While Battin is leaving, Utah received some optimistic personnel news on Sunday when another fourth-year forward, Marco Anthony, announced on Instagram that he intends to return next season for his final year of eligibility.

Anthony, who followed Smith from Utah State last spring, averaged 9.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, starting 27 of the 28 games he played in, while acting as arguably Smith’s best perimeter defender.