Eric Peterson was named an assistant men’s basketball coach on April 20, just a little over a month ago. Peterson was a member of head coach Craig Smith’s staff at South Dakota, but his career path has also included stops at Williston State (Williston, N.D.) and Minnesota State Moorhead.
He recently took some time to take part in a Q&A.
Q: You coached at South Dakota with Coach Smith, what is it like now coaching with him at Utah State?
Peterson: “Coaching with him at Utah State is very similar, as Craig is who he is. He’s not going to change personally for a job and not much is going to change with his philosophy and how we are going to play. I think any time you can have continuity as a staff, it takes a lot off of the plate of the head coach. Coach Smith, Coach (Austin) Hanson, and I have been together for the past four years and know each other well. This makes the transition smoother for everyone and we are able to be much more efficient with our time.
“Working with Craig the last four years at South Dakota I can tell you our fans are going to love how hard he coaches and our style of play. I have not been around a guy who is more detailed with scouting reports, game preparation, practice planning and recruiting. He is extremely organized in every aspect of running a program. His energy is contagious and his work ethic sets a standard for our staff and our players every single day. Our teams will be confident, tough, well-prepared, unselfish and will play extremely hard. All of that is a direct reflection of Craig and how he operates. I could not be more thankful and excited to continue to work with him at Utah State.”
Q: What will be your role at Utah State?
Peterson: “My job duties at Utah State will include:
1. Scheduling of games
2. Planning workouts – forwards and centers
3. On the floor coaching during practice
4. Scouting of opponents
5. Recruiting and evaluating players in the U.S. and internationally – find the best players that are the best fit for Utah State
6. Monitor my academic team
7. Aid with camp instruction”
Q: What is your favorite part about coaching?
Peterson: “I started my very first college coaching job when I was 22 years old, and all I cared about was winning games. I was obsessed with simply the result more than the process. Although I am still competitive and want to win more than anyone, my outlook has changed as I get older. The coaching profession is really about relationships. The relationships are so important that you develop with recruits and their families, the players you coach, other coaches, the staff you work with, the students, the fans and the community. When you are relationship based and people know you really do care about them, you are going to win at a very high level in any profession. I can’t imagine work that is more rewarding than what I get to do every single day.”
Q: What is your favorite memory as a basketball coach?
Peterson: “On the court, I would say making the NJCAA National Tournament when I was coaching at Williston State. As a junior college coach making it to “Hutch” in Hutchinson, Kansas is the ultimate goal. I was able to do it with two really good friends and coaches on staff which means even more to me. Off the floor my favorite memory is the foreign tour we took to Spain while at South Dakota. Although we played four games over there, very little of the tour was truly about being on the floor playing basketball. A lot of it was building chemistry with our players, staff and administration. We were picked last in most Summit League polls leading into the season. After the foreign trip, we finished in first place and won the title outright for the first time in school history that season. That foreign tour was a huge reason why.”
Q: What are you doing when you are not coaching basketball?
Peterson: “When I’m not coaching basketball, I am typically spending time with my family. My wife and kids are extremely active so we are always doing something outside such as riding bikes, shooting hoops, playing baseball and soccer, golfing, fishing, playing at the park and going on walks as a family. Personally, if I do have time to myself I’ll read books or articles, study NBA or successful college teams on film, watch movies, work out, hang out with friends and BBQ, and do anything outdoors such as hiking, hunting, fishing and even some fly fishing. My dad is an engineer so I have that in my blood a little bit where I love to fix and build things as well.”
Q: You’ve also served as an AD, how hast that helped you in coaching?
Peterson: “Being an athletic director may have been the greatest experience of my career so far. It truly was a blessing to be in that position at such a young age. At a junior college you typically do everything, as there is not the support system set up like a Division I school. For example, on the athletics side you are the compliance officer, you are the facilities person, you run the budgets, you are the fundraiser, you are the academic advisor, and the list goes on and on. You truly understand each working part on a different level than just being a coach. That experience has made me well-rounded and a much better coach.
“Outside of athletics you learn a lot about how the institution operates. I was in on most major meetings that our President ran, I was at the faculty council meetings and I was on almost every hiring committee. I worked with some extremely talented and intelligent people, which in turn made me a better administrator and a better leader. I was able to look at things differently and draw ideas from people with a ton of experience. Now as a full-time coach I definitely look at day-to-day decisions and how they affect other pieces of our program, department and institution as a whole.”
Q: You have lived most of your life in the Midwest, what is your impression of Logan?
Peterson: “Logan is a beautiful community. Obviously with the mountains it is way more scenic than the Midwest which is mostly flat. I have always told my wife if I could live anywhere it would be in the mountains. She knows how pumped I am for that to finally happen. The town is clean, safe and the people have been great so far. My Walmart trips are a lot longer here. I get stopped by a ton of people who want to say hello and talk basketball. It’s been great, to say the least, in my short time here and everyone has been so welcoming.”
Q: Talk about your family a little bit.
Peterson: “My wife Lindsey is a Rockstar. Any coach’s wife at this level has to be to make things work with your family. She played college volleyball at a high level (USC Upstate) and was also a head volleyball coach (Williston State) so she understands the time commitment needed to be successful. Lindsey does a great job with our three kids and keeps me grounded. She is the definition of an amazing wife and mother. Our daughter Flynn is six years old and we have two sons Isaiah who is three, and Briggs who just turned one. All of our kids are different in their own way. Flynn is one of the most social people I know. Just a heads up, she may ask you if you will buy her ice cream at a game. A few years ago, she came back to her seat with a big bowl of ice cream. My wife asked where she got it and pointed to a couple and said she talked them into buying it for her. She finished her ice cream and Lindsey gave her money to go give to that couple. My wife then starts watching the game again and Flynn comes back with another bowl of ice cream. She used the money that my wife gave her to give to that couple, to buy some more ice cream! I’ve also heard the Aggie Ice Cream is pretty good here, so we may be in trouble. Isaiah will be the boy running all over the floor after the game. You will know our family is leaving the building because you will hear him crying that he can’t shoot hoops anymore. He is obsessed with basketball and the players on the team. Briggs just learned to walk, so he won’t be far behind Isaiah.”
Q: What is your favorite piece of office decoration?
Peterson: “I grew up in Wisconsin and am a die-hard Packer fan. I have had a framed picture of Vince Lombardi in my office since I have started coaching. Under his picture is Vince describing “What it Takes to be Number One.” If you have not read it I encourage you to. One of my favorite words in coaching and in life is “Compete.” I say it so much I have even had players call me Coach ComPETERSON. Vince is quoted talking about competing in life and in sports. Winning is a habit and seeing that in a frame each day reminds me how hard we have to work to get to the top.”
Q: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
Peterson: "1. Coach in the NCAA tournament
2. Go skydiving
3. Visit all 50 states and all seven continents
I ran a half marathon in Fargo, ND with Lindsey in 2009 and proposed at the finish line. Ran a full marathon the following year in Fargo and it was by far the most challenging thing physically and mentally that I have ever done. That WAS in my top three for my bucket list.”
Q: You were the lead recruiter for Ben Fakira and Ke’Sean Davis. Talk about the, what they will bring to the program and what expectations you have for them.
Peterson: “One thing that is different about our staff is we truly work together in recruiting. Even though I may bring a player to the table, our entire staff typically recruits our top players. It’s great because when a player does commit we all feel like we had a part in it and when they get to campus we all have a solid relationship with the recruit already before we even start coaching him.
“What I like about Ben is his size at his position and that he has tremendous upside. His best basketball is truly ahead of him. Ben just turned 18 a few months ago and is 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds. Defensively, for his size, he moves extremely well, defends screen and roll and is a very physical player. He is not going to back down from anyone. Offensively, he is skilled, as he can score in the post but also rip and drive it from the perimeter. Ben is a very smart player with a great IQ and a tremendous passer. He makes people around him better and our guys will really like playing with him. Ben will represent our program really well in the community and academically. He will be a great ambassador for our program here at Utah State.
“Ke’Sean brings some versatility and athleticism into our program here at Utah State. He is extremely unselfish and has a great feel for the game which makes people around him better. At a legit 6-7, he can really shoot the ball from the perimeter and has a consistent pull-up jumper. Ke’Sean is also very efficient shooting 50 percent from the field and 41 percent from three during his sophomore season. We expect him to defend and rebound at a high level each and every day.”
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