College Basketball

Ryan Odom, who led UMBC men’s basketball to historic NCAA tournament upset, leaving for Utah State

After five years at the helm of the UMBC men’s basketball program, which included helping the Retrievers pull off the biggest upset in NCAA tournament history, Ryan Odom is taking the same role at Utah State.

The Aggies announced Monday that Odom will succeed Craig Smith, who resigned March 27.


“It is difficult to say goodbye to someone who has meant so much to this athletics department and to this university,” UMBC athletic director Brian Barrio said in a statement. “But Ryan Odom, by helping elevate this program to a new level of expectations and success, has certainly left UMBC Retriever Men’s Basketball in a better place than where he found it. That is the most important thing we can ask of any coach in their tenure here. Ryan has led our program with integrity and passion, and has given UMBC students and alumni the absolute signature moment in our athletics’ history to date. We wish him all the best in his next challenge at Utah State.”

In five seasons under Odom, who was hired in 2016 to succeed Aki Thomas, UMBC compiled a 97-60 record for a .618 winning percentage with only the 2019-20 squad wrapping up its campaign with an overall record below .500. The program went 50-29 in the America East for a .633 winning percentage, never slipped below .500 and did not finish worse than fifth in the conference. In 2017, Odom received the Joe B. Hall Award, which is presented annually to the top first-year coach in Division I.


Odom, who has a 126-81 overall record as a head coach after stints at UNC Charlotte and Division II’s Lenoir-Rhyne, did not immediately return a request seeking comment.

“My family and I are thrilled to be joining Utah State University and the Cache Valley community,” Odom said in a statement distributed by Utah State. “With President (Noelle) Cockett and Vice President John Hartwell, there is an outstanding foundation and great leadership, and I can’t tell you how excited we are to experience ‘The HURD,’ and build upon the storied history and recent success of Aggie basketball.”

In Odom’s second year, the 2017-18 Retrievers captured their first league tournament championship since 2008 and became the first No. 16 seed to defeat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament when they upended Virginia, 74-54, before falling, 50-43, to No. 9 seed Kansas State in the second round. That team also set a school single-season record with 25 wins.

This past winter, UMBC earned a share of its first America East regular-season title since 2008 and collected the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage throughout the conference tournament. But the team lost, 79-77, to No. 6 seed UMass Lowell in a semifinal at the UMBC Event Center in Catonsville on March 6.

Barrio said a national search for a new coach will begin immediately.

“Between the success the team has had on the court over the last few years, and the beautiful UMBC Event Center that opened in 2018, this program is on an entirely different level than it was in 2018, and our coaching search will reflect that evolution,” Barrio said. “We want Retriever Nation to know that, while we were not looking forward to this day, we have certainly been preparing for it. We are excited to start writing the next chapter in UMBC Men’s Basketball, and we will identify the right leader for that chapter over the coming weeks.”

Odom, an Annapolis resident and the son of former Wake Forest coach Dave Odom, takes over after Smith guided the Aggies to a 74-24 overall record and a 42-13 mark in the Mountain West Conference, two league titles and two consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. Utah State upset No. 5 ranked San Diego State for the conference title in 2020 before the NCAA tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A former star at Division III Hampden-Sydney, where he finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, Odom also served as an assistant coach at Charlotte (2011-2015), Virginia Tech (2004-2010), American (2001-2003), UNC Asheville (1999-2000) and Furman (1997-1999).