VERMILLION, S.D.—Craig Smith, who helped lead Nebraska to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 seasons, will be introduced as the next head men’s basketball coach at the University of South Dakota.
Smith will become the 17th head coach in the 106-year history of Coyote men’s basketball. He follows Dave Boots, who spent 25 seasons in Vermillion, and Boots’ long-time assistant Joey James, who served as interim head coach throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be the next basketball coach at the University of South Dakota,” said Smith. “USD is a great school. The vision of President (James) Abbott and of David Herbster aligns with my vision, and the new facility is a symbol and a sign that the best is yet to come.”
South Dakota Athletic Director David Herbster commented, “When I laid out the vision for the program and the qualities and characteristics we were seeking, it was a pretty long list. Craig Smith stood out amongst a very strong field of candidates and hit everything we were looking for to take our program to the next level.”
Smith has successfully rebuilt four different programs in the last 13 seasons. Ten of those seasons were spent as an assistant coach for Tim Miles at North Dakota State (2001-04), Colorado State (2008-12) and Nebraska (2012-14). He served as head coach at Mayville State the other three seasons (2004-07) where he compiled a record of 72-29 while advancing to three NAIA national tournaments, including a trip to the national championship game in 2007. He was named NAIA National Coach of the Year for those accomplishments.
“When I was at North Dakota State, I always remembered driving into Vermillion and walking into the DakotaDome,” said Smith. “I watched guys like Josh Mueller, Turner Trofholz and Tommie King and I recall the crowd, the support and the atmosphere inside the Dome. Coyote fans were so into the games. I have always been impressed by that.”
Smith grew up the oldest of five brothers in Stephen, a small town in northern Minnesota. He enrolled at the University of North Dakota and graduated in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and social science. He earned his master’s degree from Northern State in teaching and learning three years later.
Smith began his collegiate coaching career at Mayville State University during the 1996-97 season. An assistant to then-head coach Miles, MSU went 18-11, won the regular season NDCAC title and the conference postseason tournament before advancing to the NAIA national tournament.
Smith worked as a graduate assistant at Northern State during the 1997-98 season. He was an assistant coach at Minot State from 1998-2001.
Smith rejoined Miles at North Dakota State where he served as an assistant coach from 2001-04. There, he helped NDSU transition to the Division I level and led the Bison to their first 20-win season in six years.
From Fargo, Smith returned to Mayville State where he orchestrated one of the largest turnarounds in program history. He turned a one-win team into a 17-win team and a tournament qualifier. One year later, the team was 27-6 and reached the Elite Eight. In 2007, Mayville State played for the national championship.
He was back with Miles for the 2007-08 season, this time at Colorado State. Smith was the director of operations for one season and an assistant coach for four. He was in charge of player development, scouting and working with the Rams’ frontcourt players. Colorado State won 20 games in 2011-12 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.
Nebraska was the fourth school that Smith had worked at with Miles. This past season, the Huskers finished 19-13 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten. Nebraska was the four seed in the Big Ten Tournament and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
What they are saying about Craig Smith
Tim Miles – Head Coach at Nebraska “USD has made a terrific hire in Craig Smith. Craig is a man of great integrity and has one of the best basketball minds I have ever been around. I believe in him unconditionally. He will build a strong and lasting program, one that fans and student-athletes will embrace and one that will continue the fine tradition that has been established.”
Colton Iverson – Student-Athlete at Colorado State recruited and coached by Craig Smith and drafted by the Boston Celtics - “Coach Smith is an incredible coach. I have never been coached by anyone in my whole life who was as determined to get the most and best out of me as an individual and the team as a whole. I have never been with a coach like him that works non-stop to make the most of every day. I knew when he recruited me that he was a winner and that I would benefit from Coach Smith. His determination is contagious and you can see how success follows him everywhere he goes. He is a motivator that will do what it takes to get the best out of each and every player the right way.
Tom Osborne – Retired Athletic Director at Nebraska – “Craig has been the right hand man to Tim Miles through several stops. They have rebuilt programs. I have a great deal of respect for Craig as a coach, recruiter, and person. I wish him and the University of South Dakota well.”
Courtesy: USD Jarrod Tell