Justin Hutson, one of the West’s best recruiters and a veteran of the Mountain West conference, has been named Fresno State’s 19th head men’s basketball coach, Fresno State interim director of athletics Steve Robertello announced on Thursday.
Hutson, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., takes over a Fresno State program that has become a consistent MW contender in recent years with former Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry largely modeling his program on what Hutson, along with Steve Fisher and Brian Dutcher, had built at San Diego State.
“Today is a homecoming for me,” Hutson said. “I am a Valley guy. This is where I have my roots and family. Having the opportunity to come home and be the next head coach of the school I dreamed about is very special for me. I want to thank President Castro and Steve Robertello for trusting me with this program. I am ready to get to work and lead this team.”
Hutson returns to the Valley after serving as a Division I assistant coach for 10 seasons at San Diego State (2006-11, ’13-18), two seasons at UNLV (2011-13), one season at Cal Poly (2005-06) and two seasons at CSU Bakersfield (1998-2000).
“Throughout his career, Justin has proven that he can elevate programs,” Robertello said. “During our national search, Justin demonstrated a clear vision for how his leadership will take our Fresno State program to the next level. He has an innate ability to connect with players, develop their skills on the court and inspire them to excel off the court. And to bring home someone who really understands our Valley and what it takes to win consistently on a national stage, we are thrilled to begin a new and exciting chapter for Fresno State Basketball.”
During his time at San Diego State, Hutson helped elevate the Aztecs to the national program it has become. In his first five seasons (2006-11), SDSU won three MW titles and earned postseason berths in each of those campaigns. In 2010-11, San Diego State won 20 straight games to begin the season, won the MW regular-season and tournament titles, and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament before finishing with a school-record 34 victories. SDSU ended the year ranked No. 6/11 nationally.
Upon returning to San Diego State, the Aztecs won the MW regular-season championship in 2014 and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament before finishing with a No. 13/12 national ranking. In the last four seasons, which have produced a pair of additional MW regular-season titles, the Aztecs appeared in the third round of the 2015 NCAA tournament, went to the semifinals of the 2016 NIT and won the 2018 MW Tournament to secure a NCAA Tournament first round appearance.
SDSU’s defensive numbers also improved to an elite level when he decided to rejoin the Aztec coaching staff. As the defensive coordinator, San Diego State finished in the top 15 nationally in both scoring defense and field-goal percentage defense in his first four seasons back. San Diego State finished second in scoring defense in 2014 and 2015, third in 2016 and 15th in 2017. As far as field-goal percentage defense, the Aztecs were eighth in 2014, seventh in 2015, first in 2016 and eighth in 2017.
In his two years at UNLV, Hutson helped coach the Rebels to a pair of 25-win seasons and two NCAA appearances. He played a key role in helping UNLV bring in a highly regarded incoming class in 2012-13, which included the 2013 No. 1 overall NBA Draft selection, Anthony Bennett, a player Hutson recruited.
In both of his stints on the Montezuma Mesa, Hutson played a pivotal part in SDSU’s recruiting efforts as the team’s recruiting coordinator. He was the point person in recruiting future All-Americans and NBA Draft picks Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin and Xavier Thames, while also helping land D.J. Gay, who left SDSU as the school’s all-time leader in career wins, and Chase Tapley, who was a four-year starter. More recently, Hutson led the charge in the Aztecs inking Malik Pope and Jeremy Hemsley.
In a poll of Division I coaches conducted by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in the summer of 2013, Hutson was considered the eighth-best recruiting assistant nationally and the best on the West Coast. More recently, ESPN’s Adam Finkelstein listed Hutson as a top up-and-coming recruiter (May 2014), while Miles Simon placed him on his west region ultimate coaching staff (May 2014).
Hutson also served as the head varsity coach at Bakersfield High where he led the Drillers to a CIF Central Section title and four appearances in the playoffs in four seasons. His 2004 team was ranked as high as No. 22 in the nation and fourth in California, while his 2003 squad finished the season with a 25-5 record and won the section title.
As a collegiate player, Hutson enjoyed a storied career, winning two NCAA Division II championships at CSU Bakersfield. In the 1993 championship season, the Roadrunners were undefeated with a 33-0 record and followed that up with a 27-6 record during the 1994 season.
Hutson earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1994 and a teaching credential in 1995 from CSU Bakersfield. He also received his master of arts in education from CSU Bakersfield in 2009.