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Craig Smith, who fortified Utah State, hired as Utah coach

March 27, 2021 GMT
FILE- In this Friday, March 12, 2021, file photo, Utah State head coach Craig Smith reacts to a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado State in the semifinal round of the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas. Utah State and Texas Tech meet in a first-round game in the South Region on Friday. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)
FILE- In this Friday, March 12, 2021, file photo, Utah State head coach Craig Smith reacts to a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado State in the semifinal round of the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas. Utah State and Texas Tech meet in a first-round game in the South Region on Friday. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Craig Smith, who quickly turned Utah State into one of the nation’s best mid-major programs, was hired Saturday as Utah’s basketball coach.

The Utes said Smith will replace Larry Krystkowiak, who was fired this month.

Smith led the the Aggies to the NCAA Tournament twice in three years. Utah State won the Mountain West Conference Tournament title in 2020, but didn’t get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Utah State won the MWC Tournament again this season and won 20 games before losing 65-53 to Texas Tech in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

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Smith has been an adept recruiter in Logan, bringing in players like Sam Merrill, now with the Boston Celtics, and Portuguese big man Neemias Queta.

He previously coached four seasons at South Dakota before being hired by Utah State in 2018.

Utah State fired Krystkowiak on March 16 after he went 183-139 during 10 seasons in Salt Lake City.

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