Hutson returns to the Valley to lead Bulldogs basketball

New Fresno State coach says it’s his dream job

by Eddie Hughes and Stephen Trembley

Justin Hutson arrived at Fresno Yosemite International airport aboard “Bulldog One,” a private plane owned by one of Fresno State’s biggest supporters. The moment he stepped off the plane, he began fielding congratulatory phone calls from fans and moments later greeted some in person during his first visit to Dog House Grill.

But it was the next stop — Fresno State’s 15,596-seat Save Mart Center — from which much of Hutson’s success will be measured as the next head coach of the men’s basketball program. Hutson greeted his new team—a talented collection with a nice mix of experience that has been in the upper tier of the Mountain West standings for the past three years.

Former coach Rodney Terry ended a 15-year drought when he led the Bulldogs back to the NCAA tournament in 2015-16 and brought some of the buzz back to the program. And it’s that buzz — or more so frenzied Red Wave — that Hutson remembers so well growing up in Bakersfield and following Bulldogs basketball games.

“Fresno State has a great tradition. It started with Boyd Grant, who built the foundation for this program,” Hutson says. “Moving on to Coach [Jerry] Tarkanian, he brought the excitement back to the program, and the vision of building the Save Mart Center—I want to be the coach who helps Tark and the Red Wave reach their vision of filling the Save Mart Center.”

Hutson, who was known during his time as an assistant for 10 years at San Diego State and two seasons at UNLV as one of the West’s best recruiters, is already turning heads. Just about two weeks into the job, he signed 7-foot-1 center Assane Diouf (originally of Dakar, Senegal) to a national letter of intent.

Hutson’s work on the recruiting front isn’t finished, but he took a few moments to sit down with Fresno State Magazine to share some fun facts and give the Red Wave a bit of insight into its new coach.

Coach J Hut Fun Facts

Fresno State Magazine: What’s the best part of your first month as Bulldogs basketball coach?

Hutson: The people and the chance to spend time with our players, administration, staff, other coaches and the Red Wave.

What’s your earliest memory of Fresno State?

When Boyd Grant visited my home when I was 8 or 9 years old. He was recruiting Otis Jennings, who played for my dad at Bakersfield High School.  I have a lot of fond memories of watching the Bulldogs play.

What’s your go-to place to take visiting recruits?

The Save Mart Center, it’s one of the nicest college basketball arenas in the nation. I’m also open to suggestions on where the Red Wave thinks I should take recruits. I just created a Twitter account, so you can send me a tweet @CoachJHut. Also, I would love it if the Red Wave met our recruits at the airport to show them the type of fans we have.

Best meal you’ve had since you arrived and where was it from?

DogHouse Grill, the tri-tip!

Lucky number and why?

  1. I met my fiancée, Stacie, on May 23.

Favorite vacation spot and why?

As a basketball coach, I don’t get many vacations, but I do like to visit the beach.

What’s your favorite childhood memory growing up in Bakersfield?

Basketball practices and games with my dad.

Concert you’d most like to see at the Save Mart Center?

Anything R&B.

Favorite thing to do when you’re not on the court?

Watch movies.

Favorite basketball shoe of all-time?

A tie between Fresno State alumnus Paul George’s shoes (the PGs) and Kawhi Leonard’s shoes (The Klaw), since I coached him previously.