San Diego State Secures Basketball Coach Dutcher’s Future

Brian Dutcher’s new deal, which runs through the 2027-28 season, will reportedly pay him $2.3 million to $2.7 million annually.
San Diego State Secures Basketball Coach Dutcher’s Future
San Diego State head coach Brian Dutcher calls out instructions during the first half of a first-round college basketball game against Charleston in the NCAA Tournament in Orlando, Fla., on March 16, 2023. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP Photo)
Dan Wood

Following up a Cinderella journey to the NCAA Tournament’s championship game would be a tall order for any college basketball program, let alone a mid-major with no history of traveling in such rarefied air.

While this season’s San Diego State sequel hasn’t been perfect, at least to this point, multiple chapters remain to be written.

The Aztecs will host senior night at 7 p.m. March 8 in their regular-season finale against Boise State at Viejas Arena. Such occasions, of course, are always cause for both celebration and reflection, but San Diego State supporters figure to be in for plenty more excitement.

Not only are the Aztecs gearing up for next week’s Mountain West Conference Tournament and another NCAA Tournament foray, but San Diego State made significant off-court news March 6 by signing Coach Brian Dutcher to a lengthy and handsome contract extension.

“Dutch has been an integral part [of] building the successful basketball program we have today, and last year’s run to the national championship [game] was a defining moment for him and our institution,” Athletic Director John David Wicker said in a university-issued announcement. “More than success on the floor, Dutch has built a program based on bringing in young men who also excel in the classroom and the community. I look forward to continuing to see the successes of our student-athletes, staff, and coaches under Brian’s leadership.”

Mr. Dutcher, 64, was previously signed through next season, but the new deal that runs through the 2027-28 campaign will reportedly pay him between $2.3 million and $2.7 million annually. Containing a hefty buyout clause, the contract figures to ward off any potential overtures from other schools in the wake of the Aztecs’ NCAA runner-up finish last season, which culminated with a 76-59 loss to Connecticut in the national championship game in Houston.

In his seventh season leading San Diego State after having spent 18 years as an assistant to former Coach Steve Fisher, Mr. Dutcher expressed gratitude to Mr. Wicker and university President Adela de la Torre.

Jaedon LeDee (13) and Lamont Butler (5) of the San Diego State Aztecs react during the second half against the Florida Atlantic Owls during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game in Houston on April 1, 2023. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Jaedon LeDee (13) and Lamont Butler (5) of the San Diego State Aztecs react during the second half against the Florida Atlantic Owls during the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game in Houston on April 1, 2023. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Having served as an assistant under Mr. Fisher at Michigan, Mr. Dutcher also credited his former boss, as well as Aztecs assistant coaches.

“We have built a program that competes on a national level every night,” Mr. Dutcher said in the university statement. “I got into coaching to affect the lives of young people, and to be able to do it at a school and in a city I love is all anyone can ask for.”

While Mr. Dutcher was on Mr. Fisher’s Michigan staff when the Wolverines won the 1989 national championship, San Diego State had never advanced beyond the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 before last year.

A two-time Mountain West coach of the year, Mr. Dutcher has guided the Aztecs into the NCAA Tournament four times and to the Mountain West Tournament championship game in each of his six seasons. His 173-55 career record, which includes at least 21 victories every season, is good for a school-record .759 winning percentage.

With an 11-6 conference record this season following a 62-58 loss March 5 at Nevada-Las Vegas, the Aztecs fell short of repeating as regular-season champions in the stacked Mountain West, where Utah State leads the way at 13-4, and Boise State, Nevada, and UNLV are all 12-5.

At 22-8 overall, San Diego State is among seven Mountain West teams boasting at least 19 victories, a group that also includes New Mexico and Colorado State. That all sets up what figures to be a riveting conference tournament March 13-16 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

While the team that cuts down the nets in Las Vegas will claim the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament, expectations are that at least six Mountain West clubs will be included in March Madness.

Based on an impressive Aztecs regular-season resume that includes victories over West Coast Conference champion Saint Mary’s and runner-up Gonzaga, as well as the Big West Conference’s top two teams in UC Irvine and UC San Diego, CBS Sports analyst Jerry Palm projects San Diego State as a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest of any Mountain West team.

The Aztecs are ranked 21st in this week’s Associated Press national poll, one spot ahead of Utah State.

Before full attention turns to the postseason, however, six seniors will play their final home game as San Diego State attempts to get even for a 67-66 loss Jan. 20 at Boise State. Jaedon LeDee, who leads the Aztecs with 20.5 points per game, fellow forwards Jay Pal and Cade Alger, and guards Micah Parrish, Lamont Butler, and Darrion Trammell will be honored in senior-night festivities.

Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.
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