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Despite huge turnover, Ryan Odom approaching Aggies season with open mind

Former UMBC head coach Ryan Odom directs his plays from the sideline during a game in the NCAA Tournament.

Former UMBC head coach Ryan Odom directs his plays from the sideline during a game in the NCAA Tournament. (Associated Press)

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LOGAN — With the Utah State men's basketball season less than a week away from tipping off against Montana Western at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, new head coach Ryan Odom has worked hard to put the finishing touches on his diverse roster.

Just a day after the Mountain West Conference released its preseason poll, which ranked the Aggies fifth, Odom and senior Justin Bean addressed the media Thursday afternoon to discuss their experience thus far and provided an insight on how the team is shaping up for the 2021-22 season.

"Things are well in Logan," Odom said. "We've transitioned really well and I am enjoying the guys. We've got a great group of guys here and the staff and players have really clicked so far, so the transition has been fun."

Odom joined the Utah State program in the offseason after spending five seasons with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. In five years with the Retrievers, Odom put together an impressive 97-60 record with a 50-29 American East Conference record. He was also at the helm when UMBC made history and defeated No. 1-seeded Virginia in the NCAA Tournament — the first and only time a No. 16 seed had ever defeated the top seed.

Following the departure of former head coach Craig Smith, who is now at the University of Utah, Odom was selected and chose to accept the role due to the rich tradition of the program and the culture they have created over the years, he said.

"Obviously, the tradition here at Utah State is tremendous. Craig Smith and his staff did an awesome job the last three years, and obviously he has moved on, but it's a true brotherhood here," Odom said. "There have been great coaches throughout the history, NCAA Tournaments with huge wins, and you talk about the Spectrum, and Spectrum magic, ya know, it's alive and well. So we are just thankful, and thankful to be a part of it."

Having been with the program for a few months now, Odom has been able to analyze everything it has to offer. But he's approached it with an open mind to try to make all the pieces fit despite such a major transition.

"The biggest thing you have to do, initially, when you first take over a job is to get to know your own program and the players with the program," he said. "What are their strengths, where are some areas that you need to really attack from a roster management standpoint in order to make the pieces fit. And then the evaluation process begins right away when you first get there.

"But at the same time, you don't want your players to feel like they are being evaluated so there's a balance there. You want them to feel like there is a level of trust, but that takes time to build, so we just spent time with our guys."

Odom will face a difficult challenge with 10 newcomers joining the roster, in addition to seven returners. While he is more than up for the challenge, Odom said he will rely heavily on his seniors, specifically Bean, who led the team with 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds and is a two-time All-MW selection.

"We're really fortunate to have the opportunity to coach him (Bean)," Odom said. "He's a great player. Obviously, everybody talks about his ability to rebound the basketball and his overall motor, but he's expanded his game. He's a guy we are going to count on to score the basketball for us and be a leader for our team.

"There's no doubt that we'll run stuff for Justin. Justin has earned the right to have the ball in key times and key situations."

Bean said he's approaching the year with the mindset to "be the best I can be."

"We are all focused on our task here this year, and for me personally, that means staying on top of everything and making sure I can be that leader that guys look to in practice and just in everything we do," Bean said.

Bean said Odom is "very gifted" with how he sees the game, which has helped the new roster see the game from a different level.

"He's not afraid to slow things down in a practice and help us see why we do certain things," Bean said. "Why we go over passing for 10-15 minutes, or why we work on pivots, you know — just the fundamentals of the game are really important to him and he's made that a priority for all of us."

Despite a heavy task ahead of Odom, Bean and the rest of the players, the Aggies will look to continue their recent success amid the challenges and adversities that will inevitably arise due to a coaching change and heavy roster overhaul. But with a collection of solid newcomers, in addition to multiple returning veterans led by a proven coach, the Aggies have every reason to still compete atop a highly competitive Mountain West Conference.

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