Justin Hutson. Image from his LinkedIn page

Fresno State is expected Thursday to announce that its next men’s basketball head coach will be current San Diego State associate head coach Justin Hutson, according to several reports from Fresno.

Hutson has coached a total of 10 seasons at SDSU during two stints at the school. He helped coach the Aztecs from 2006 to 2011, left for two seasons to coach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, then returned to SDSU in 2013. The 2017-2018 season under first-year head coach Brian Dutcher was Hutson’s first as associate head coach. Previously, he was an assistant coach under Steve Fisher.

During his time at SDSU, the Aztecs were one of the most successful teams on the west coast and gained national prominence with two appearances in the Sweet 16.

Citing multiple unnamed sources, both the Fresno Bee and Fox26 in Fresno reported the hire. Neither school had confirmed the hire as of early Thursday morning, but Fresno State interim athletic director Joseph Castro sent a cryptic tweet late Wednesday night that read, “A new (and) exciting era for Fresno State (men’s basketball) is about to begin! Go `Dogs!”

Hutson will take over a Bulldogs team that finished 21-11 last season, including 11-7 in the Mountain West Conference, good for fourth place. The fifth-place Aztecs beat the Bulldogs in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Days later, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry left for the same position with the University of Texas, El Paso.

The move for Hutson is one that will take the native of California’s Central Valley closer to home. He grew up in Bakersfield and won two Division II basketball championships as a player at Cal State Bakersfield. He also earned bachelors and masters degrees from the university. He went on to start his coaching career at Cal State Bakersfield before becoming head coach at Bakersfield High School, where he led that team to a CIF section championship during a four-year tenure. He then joined the coaching staff at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for a season before Fisher hired him to the Aztecs’ staff in 2006.

In Hutson, SDSU had a defensive specialist and highly regarded recruiter who helped secure the signing of future NBA star Kawhi Leonard. He’s also credited with recruiting or helping to recruit most of the Aztecs’ top players over the last decade, including Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, D.J. Gay, Malik Pope, Jeremy Hemsley and Jalen McDaniels. At UNLV, he recruited Anthony Bennett, who would go on to become the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft.

During Hutson’s two stints on Montezuma Mesa, the SDSU basketball program developed into one of the top programs on the west coast thanks in no small part to Hutson’s defensive prowess. Upon his return to SDSU in 2013, Hutson took over as the team’s defensive coordinator, and the Aztecs finished in the top 15 nationally in both scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense the next four straight years.

The Fresno Bee reported that Hutson will sign a five-year contract that will pay him $500,000 the first season.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.