On Thursday, March 28, Cal Poly named Cal State Fullerton associate head coach John Smith as Cal Poly’s next Men’s Basketball head coach. The announcement was made by President Jeffrey Armstrong and Athletic Director Don Oberhelman inside the Performing Arts Center (PAC).

As previously reported, Smith will replace former head coach Joe Callero, who was let go after ten years with the Mustangs.

Smith spent the last six seasons with CSU Fullerton during the program’s most successful period in recent history. Over the last three seasons, the Titans made back-to-back Big West Championship appearances, an NCAA Tournament appearance and averaged 18 wins per year. Credited for his recruiting efforts, Smith helped build a program that produced three All-Big West honorees in 2017.

Oberhelman noted Smith’s background in education and said he embodies the Mustang Way by being an educator first.

“When it comes to our head coaches, I believe they’re among the finest educators we have at this university,” Oberhelman said. “They utilize the competition field, the practice field and the court as a Learn By Doing leadership laboratory every single day, and they’re amazing.”

Smith began by thanking Cal Poly, his family and CSU Fullerton head coach Dedrique Taylor. Smith also pointed out his appreciation for his brother Steve Smith – a retired WNBA coach who also served as John’s coach during his senior year at Dominican University. 

“The life lessons [Steve] has taught me are insurmountable,” Smith said. “Wherever he goes, everybody just loves him. So I try to take some of that personality from him, and hopefully you’ll see that in the next five to ten years while I’m here.”

Smith said his vision as the leader of Cal Poly’s basketball program attracted him to the job.

“This job is a gold mine, I feel, in the Big West Conference,” Smith said. “I’m a lifelong educator, so the opportunity to coach at one of the top public universities in the country closely aligns with who I am as a person … [My family] believes that a quality education will outlast a playing career anytime, and that’s what I try to impart in any student I come across.”

Smith said San Luis Obispo’s energetic community also drew him to the job.

“This is, by far, one of the hardest places to play on the road because of the community, the energy that you guys bring every single game,” Smith said. “Here, I see the energy. Our style of play, I hope, will bring out even more of the community.”

Smith described his servant leadership approach to coaching and said it embraces communication, conceptualizing, caring and stewardship. The new head coach also told the audience what to expect out of his style of play for the future – fast-paced offense mixed with a variation of match-up zone defense.

“We’re going to be fun,” Smith said. “We’re going to play fast, exciting and make sure [our opponents] are uncomfortable.”

In closing, Smith once again thanked the community for the warm welcome.

“I couldn’t imagine it being any different,” Smith said. “This is phenomenal … I just want to say, it’s a great day to be a Mustang.”

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