OSU coaching bracket: Is Utah State’s Danny Sprinkle the man to beat?

OSU coaching bracket: Is Utah State’s Danny Sprinkle the man to beat?

Utah State’s Danny Sprinkle seems to be the Cowboys’ prime target to replace Mike Boynton, who was fired earlier this week after seven seasons on the job.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Mar 20, 2024, 6:00am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Mar 20, 2024, 6:00am CDT

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The last time OSU basketball went looking for a coach, the world was a different place. No transfer portal. No name/image/likeness. A Big 12 with 10 schools, eight of them original members.

That was then. NIL money and rampant roster changes and a 16-team Big 12 in which only six members were in the league a dozen years ago.

All of which explains Danny Sprinkle. The Utah State coach seems to be the Cowboys’ prime target to replace Mike Boynton, who was fired earlier this week after seven seasons on the job.

Sprinkle’s eighth-seeded Aggies play ninth-seeded Texas Christian on Friday night in the Midwest Regional.

Others want Sprinkle, too. Washington, for example, reportedly is hot on Sprinkle’s trail.

And here’s why Sprinkle is so attractive. He proved at Utah State that he’s a quick fix.

The Aggies a year ago went 26-9 and lost to Missouri 76-65 in the first round of the NCAAs. Then Virginia Commonwealth hired away Utah State coach Ryan Odom, and soon enough, 13 Utah State players left, either via transfer or expired eligibility. All 10 Aggies who scored a point last season were gone.

“It’s probably going to be the hardest year of my life, and the biggest challenge coaching-wise that I’ve ever had,” Sprinkle told the Deseret News of Salt Lake City before the season started.

Instead, Sprinkle came in and performed a 2020s turnaround. He brought in nine portal players, some from his previous school, Montana State, and four freshmen. And a Utah State team picked ninth in the Mountain West Conference won the league. The 20th-ranked Aggies won 17 of their 18 games and take a 27-6 record into their showdown with TCU.

That’s the kind of transformation all kinds of programs desire, particularly OSU, which has reached the NCAA Tournament just once since 2017.

“What they’ve done is amazing,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher told the San Diego Union. “For Coach Sprinkle not to return a point from last year, with all new guys, and get off to a 19-2 start is unheard of. Usually, you would think it would take a full year to get everybody acclimated to each other. Usually, to be a good team you need some returning pieces who have been in the system.”

Sprinkle grew up in Montana, starred at Montana State, went into coaching at Cal State-Northridge, then returned to his alma mater for 20 years, the final four as head coach.

Logan, Utah, is as far east as he’s worked, professionally. But the world has shrunk, and college basketball has changed, and that’s why OSU athletic director Chad Weiberg has Sprinkle high on his list. 

In fact, I’ve got Sprinkle winning my OSU coaching bracket, which I unveiled Tuesday on Sellout Crowd and am completing today.

Maybe Washington gets Sprinkle. If so, browse the bracket and see who you’d like the Cowboys to entice. 

But whoever OSU hires, just remember that the job is nothing like it was in 2017.

Here’s the rest of my bracket, starting with the Sweet 16:

BIG COUNTRY REGIONAL

Sweet 16

No. 1 Danny Sprinkle, Utah State vs. No. 4 Kyle Smith, Washington State

Winner — Sprinkle: Smith might prefer WSU and the West Coast Conference.

No. 3 Joe Golding, Texas-El Paso vs. No. 2 Bryce Drew, Grand Canyon

Winner — Golding: Drew’s 40-59 record at Vanderbilt a red flag.

Elite Eight

No. 1. Danny Sprinkle, Utah State vs. No. 3 Joe Golding, UTEP

Winner — Sprinkle: Golding, the pride of Wichita Falls, would be a heck of a consolation prize.

BYRON HOUSTON REGIONAL

Sweet 16

No. 1 Paul Mills, Wichita State vs. No. 4 Billy Gillespie, Tarleton State

Winner — Gillespie: Wichita State is a better job than is OSU.

No. 3 Richard Pitino, New Mexico vs. No. 2 Kellen Sampson, Houston assistant

Winner — Sampson: Pitino waits for a better job.

Elite Eight

No. 4 Billy Gillespie, Tarleton State vs. No. 2 Kellen Sampson, Houston assistant

Winner — Sampson: Gillespie is a heck of a coach, but while he’s been given a clean bill of health after a medical situation forced him to miss most of this season, OSU can’t take the risk.

DESMOND MASON REGIONAL 

Sweet 16

No. 1 Doug Gottlieb, Fox Sports vs. No. 5 Ulric Maligi, Kansas State assistant

Winner — Maligi: Gottlieb apparently has been told he won’t be considered.

No. 6 K.T. Turner, Texas-Arlington vs. No. 10 Leon Rice, Boise State

Winner — Turner: Rice is 60. OSU needs younger blood.

Elite Eight

No. 5 Ulric Maligi, Kansas State assistant vs. No. 6 K.T. Turner, Texas-Arlington

Winner — Maligi: A replica of KSU’s Jerome Tang (assistant at Baylor) experience is too tempting for OSU.

BOB KURLAND REGIONAL

Sweet 16

No. 1 Darian DeVries, Drake vs. No. 4 Jai Lucas, Duke assistant 

Winner — Lucas: DeVries likely lands a better job.

No. 3 Niko Medved, Colorado State vs. No. 10 Brandon Chappell, Texas assistant

Winner — Medved: OSU knows head-coaching experience is vital.

Elite Eight

No. 4 Jai Lucas, Duke assistant vs. No. 3 Niko Medved, Colorado State

Winner — Medved: Cowboys can’t risk the track record of Duke assistants.

FINAL FOUR

No. 1 Danny Sprinkle, Utah State vs. No. 2 Kellen Sampson, Houston assistant

Winner — Sprinkle: Sampson is unproven as a head coach, and even if he wins big, he could be on his way back to Houston, when Kelvin Sampson retires.

No. 5 Ulric Maligi, Kansas State assistant vs. No. 3 Niko Medved, Colorado State

Winner — Medved: OSU’s track record of hiring assistant coaches to be head coach is not strong.

FINALS

No. 1 Danny Sprinkle, Utah State vs. No. 3 Niko Medved, Colorado State

Winner — Sprinkle: If the Cowboys land Sprinkle, it would be quite the coup.

 

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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