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The Craig Smith Era Officially Begins for South Dakota Basketball

Craig Smith wants to win and he wants to win now.

That was the message from the brand new South Dakota head coach moments after he was introduced at a Monday press conference in Vermillion.

The former Nebraska assistant coach says he wants to immediately establish the Coyotes as a Summit League power and wants his team to follow the women’s program’s lead from this season and play in the NCAA tournament next year.

Smith, who’s gone from stops in Mayville, Fargo, and Minot, North Dakota; Aberdeen, South Dakota; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Lincoln, Nebraska, told me the opportunity that the USD job held and the timing of the opening made it hard to pass up:

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USD athletic director David Herbster worked with a national search firm to secure Smith.  Hebster told me he believes he got the right guy:

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One of the things that had been on Herbster’s list of qualifications had been head coaching experience at the Division I level, and Smith’s only head coaching experience is at the NAIA level. But Herbster says Smith’s vast experience as a top assistant in Division I helped bridge that gap:

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Anytime a school makes a new hire it’s important stuff, but both Smith and Herbster told me the current time frame is crucial with USD now done transitioning into Division I, the basketball program taking a small step backward last season after the surprise resignation of long time coach Dave Boots just before the season began, and the brand new basketball facility planned for campus in the next couple of years:

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One of the things Smith has built his reputation on is recruiting.  He says with his variety of positions in the upper Midwest over the past 18 seasons, he knows how much talent there is in this part of the country:

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Smith inherits a program that 12-18 last season and 6-8 in the Summit League under interim head coach Joey James.

The Coyotes lose their best inside player in Trevor Gruis, as well as guard Karim Rowson, but do return starters Brandon Bos, Tyler Flack, and Trey Norris from last year’s team.

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