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Senior Associate Athletic Director for External Relations introduces San Diego State Associate Head Coach Justin Huston during a press conference held at the Save Mart Center on April 5, 2018. (Alyssa Honore/The Collegian)

New coach Hutson says ‘it’s time to get the old Red Wave back’

Fresno State interim athletic director Steve Robertello named Justin Hutson the new men’s basketball coach on April 4 after news began to break the night before.

In a late-night tweet last Wednesday, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph Castro piqued interest from his followers with a message saying “a new and exciting era” was about to begin for the university.

Immediately after, several reports began to surface indicating the university may have chosen its new head basketball coach — a position that became the center of attention after Rodney Terry left for the head coach position at University of Texas El Paso in March.

During a news conference at the Save Mart Center last Thursday afternoon, Castro and Robertello formally introduced the Red Wave to its new men’s basketball coach.

Hutson who had been associate head coach at San Diego State is coming off a season which saw the Aztecs win a Mountain West championship and came within a 3-point basket of advancing in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. He is in his tenth year over the course of two stints with the Aztecs (2006-11, 2013-present) and served as an assistant coach until he was promoted to associate head coach in May 2017.

Hutson also spent time as associate head coach at UNLV (2011-2013) and as an assistant coach at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (2006).

His recruitment success is nationally renowned. In a 2013 coaches’ poll conducted by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Hutson was named the eighth best recruiting assistant in the country. He has helped land former and current Aztec stars such as Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin and Malik Pope.

Hutson is also known as a defensive coach. The Aztecs were nationally ranked in the top 15 in both scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense in his first four seasons of his second stint with the team.

That is something he hopes to build on with the ‘Dogs.

“I promised Dr. Castro and Mr. Robertello that they wouldn’t be disappointed in our attitude and our effort,” Hutson said at the news conference. “We are going to play great defense. We are going to play a fast style on offense that utilizes the three-point line in transition. I want to make sure we are playing an exciting style of basketball.”

Along with that new style of basketball, Hutson said he is also looking to increase attendance at the Save Mart Center games.

“It’s going to start with me,” Hutson said. “People are going to want to touch me, so I want to get out in the community. Not just Fresno, but Hanford, Visalia, Bakersfield, Corcoran. I have to get out there.”

He added that it was time to “get the old Red Wave back” and that new fans needed to be brought to the game – and that it all starts with him. Robertello said that Hutson’s roots in the central San Joaquin Valley will help with that.

“After a search that yielded an abundant amount of talent and wish to lead our men’s basketball team, one person stands out among them and that is Hutson,” Castro said. “Today is the beginning of a new and very exciting era for men’s basketball at Fresno State.”

Robertello thanked everyone involved in the national search for Fresno State’s 19th men’s basketball coach.

When we started this process, we were looking for some very strong attributes. Basically, we wanted to find the best coach we could find and someone that could recruit at a high level,” Robertello said. “But we also wanted to find that individual that first and foremost would take care of our student-athletes – academically, socially, athletically – that was a big part of it.”

Robertello said Hutson has those qualities and then some. He said the department wanted someone who came from a high-level program and someone who had won at a high-level and knew how to win in the Mountain West. That was Hutson.  

“Having the opportunity to come home and be the next head coach of the school I dreamed about is very special for me. I want to thank President Castro and Steve Robertello for trusting me with this program,” Hutson said. “I am ready to get to work and lead this team.”