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Jay Elsen Discussed the Hiring of Craig Smith, Success USD Women’s Basketball in 2014

Jay Elsen of Midco Sports (@ElsenMidcoSN) joined Jeff Thurn (@jtespn991sf) on Thursday’s edition of Overtime. 

Elsen covers the University of South Dakota Coyotes for Midco Sports.

Thurn asks Elsen how quickly things will turn for the Coyote men’s basketball program with new head coach Craig Smith?

“Well, I think with any coaching change, it’s always a process. It’s going to take some time and that being said, I think he’s not exactly been given a bare cupboard. Joey James and his staff left a left him in a pretty good spot with some of the young guys they have. A lot of talented guys and maybe the nucleus of that team, you can even argue with sophomores last year. So, those are guys that are coming back with at least a year, maybe two left. Brandon Bos is back; he’ll be a senior. Very good leader for that team. So, that’s going to help them as well to have a guy he can depend on to fill that leadership role for them. I think the bottom line is with him, he’s had success every where he’s gone. He’s learned under Tim Miles, whose also had success wherever he’s gone and he’s done it in a relevantly short amount of time. All things considered with the way he’s turned programs around. So, I think all that is encouraging for USD fans, USD administrators, and it just remains to be seen. Certainly, he’s got the pedigree. I think he’s had some great mentors along the way, and now it’s his turn to go out there and get it done. He’s out there trying to get guys into the program that are going to give them a little depth and maybe improve them in some spots out on the floor. I don’t think it’s fair to expect a change overnight, that being said, my limited interaction with him at this point, he’s a guy that leaves an impression on you. So, I think that’s going to be huge in the recruiting process in getting guys to come, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that building is a reality now and they are getting pretty close to breaking ground on it and be a huge help for him in that process.”

USD lost in the Summit League quarterfinals to Denver in March. Joey James was dismissed as interim coach, and late became the head coach at Concordia-St. Paul. Smith was an assistant coach under Miles at Nebraska.

Elsen on the USD women winning the Summit League, making the Big Dance, and carrying that momentum to next year:

“Well, it’s huge. I mean they are team that can say they ended South Dakota State’s run, and you know, everybody wanted to be that team. It just so happened the Jackrabbits’ arch rival was the team that earned that right. With that of course, comes the target of being the team everybody else, including South Dakota State, is going to be coming for next year. So, that being said, they return a tremendous amount of talent. They lost Polly Harrington, who was a huge part of that team. Obviously, that’s a big blow, but they pretty much got everybody else coming back and a couple of nice recruits to add to that talent pool already and added another transfer from Colorado State in Caitlin Duffy that is not going to be eligible to play next year, but is going to have two years left when she becomes eligible the following year. She was sixth woman of the year in the Mountain West Conference. You can already see that tournament run paying dividends by attracting the amount of talent they have and now, just handling that pressure going forward. Now, remember, big things were thought of USD coming into last year because of the run they made in the Summit League tournament and the amount of talent they had this year. They didn’t handle it real well initially, and part of that was injuries, poor shooting, and things of that nature, but started 0-4 in the Summit League and things were looking really bad, and credit to Amy, her staff and those players. They stuck together, they bought into the message, they bought into what had made them successful in the previous postseason and got things turned around and player their best basketball at the perfect time and ended making another run in that tournament and getting that opportunity that all those girls have dreamed about their entire lives and the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament. Now, of course, that challenge is to carry into next year, which even South Dakota State knows, even though they have come and rolled through the Summit League winning those five straight titles, and going to the NCAA tournament five straight times, that’s not easy to do. While they’ve made it look easy, it is not. So, that’s the big challenge that awaits this team, program going forward, but certainly you have like where they are sitting as of today, and what an extraordinary job Amy Williams has done in her two years as the head coach.”

To catch more of Elsen’s interview with Thurn, click on the link below:

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Thurn can be heard weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m. on ESPN 99.1

For comments, or story ideas, email Sam at tastadsam@gmail.com, and follow him on Twitter @samtastad.

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