The Tim Miles era ended last Saturday for CSU.
Miles revitalized the Rams, taking them from national joke to NCAA Tournament contender in five years.
Under Miles, Colorado State incredibly improved every single season, as the team reached the big dance this year for the first time since 2003.
Miles wasn’t just a winner and consummate professional as a coach; he was also an ambassador for the university and a caring man in the community.
It’s why Miles will be difficult for Colorado State AD Jack Graham to replace.
The man that’s temporarily taken the position is Craig Smith, long-time assistant of Miles.
Smith was given the interim head coach title and has taken over the responsibilities since Miles’ departure including heading up workouts with the team and talking to recruits Jermaine Morgan and Jordan Mason.
Those recruits told Smith they will not make their decision on whether or not to stay with CSU until after the next head coach is named.
Smith, who ironically wrote his Master’s thesis on why student athletes choose their school—coaches—seems to be the frontrunner for the job and with good reason.
His resume is very similar to Miles’ when he was hired by Colorado State in 2007 and he has a great understanding of the team buildup, strengths and weaknesses and strategy.
Smith coached under Miles three times, at Mayville State in the late 90s, at North Dakota State in the early 2000s and the last five years at CSU.
And Colorado State’s old coach spoke highly of the man that could become their next head coach.
“Craig is an outstanding coach,” Miles said.
“I’ve hired him three times, and there’s a reason for that. I believe in the way he conducts himself. He’s an excellent recruiter and, schematically, he’s really a good tactician when it comes to basketball.”
And Smith hasn’t just been an assistant; he’s also been a head coach at the Division II level.
From 2005-2007, Smith compiled a 72-29 record with Mayville State, taking them to three straight NAIA II tournaments, including the 2007 NAIA II Championship game. It was the only time a basketball team from North Dakota made a national collegiate championship game, and although they lost, Smith took Mayville State to new heights as their head man.
The spectacular 2007 season earned him the NAIA II National Coach of the Year award before following his friend Miles to Fort Collins.
At Colorado State, Smith was influential as well, handling most of the recruiting while deciding in-game substitutions and working on specific schemes for the team.
Craig Smith already has a working understanding of the CSU Rams—their talent and what it takes for them to be a winning team—which helps his case.
What also helps it is the players’ desire for the next head coach being someone from within the organization, rather than outside it.
And while Smith may be the frontrunner—partially because he’s the only named candidate for the job—he’s not the only one Graham is focused on.
Graham is currently in New Orleans, site of the NCAA Final Four and many coaching conventions this weekend, where he will meet with two to three coaches—who he would not name—for “15-45 minute meetings” as he told Kelly Lyell Thursday. But he also clarified that he needs much more time—four hours specifically—before he feels comfortable giving someone the keys to the program.
So as the coaching search rolls forward, and quickly, Craig Smith is the frontrunner for the job, not only because he knows the players and program, but because he’s a winner and has head coaching experience.
Whether or not his interim title is ever transformed into a permanent one remains to be seen and the decision could come quite quickly.
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your Denver Broncos Examiner, Rich is your CSU Rams Examiner and Kurtzman also writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Mile High Hoops.
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