Austin Hansen was named an assistant men’s basketball coach on April 20, just a little over a month ago. Hansen was a member of head coach Craig Smith’s staff at South Dakota, but his career path has also included stops at Northern Colorado, South Dakota State and Minnesota State – Mankato.
He recently took some time to take part in a Q&A.
Q: You coached at South Dakota with Coach Smith, so what is it like now being here at Utah State coaching with him?
Hansen: “Coach Smith’s a guy that brings an up-beat attitude to the office, and that’s fun to be around. His mentality gets you excited about doing your job. You’re just ready to attack the day. He’s the total package, he can promote a program, he can recruit, and he’s really good with X’s and O’s. He does a great job of getting fans excited about our team. When you know the guy at the top is working his tail off it’s pretty easy to put in that extra effort. Whether it’s making one more phone call or watching one more game film or making that extra recruiting trip you feel like it’s going to make a difference because of the expectations he’s set for our program. Great organizations and teams are built on great leadership. That’s Coach Smith. He empowers and gives you freedom to do your job. He creates an environment where everyone feels valued. I think that really trickles down to our players. Our guys have been quick to buy-in and I think that’s a big reason why we’ve been so successful.”
Q: What will be your role here at Utah State?
Hansen: “Recruiting, skill development, and game preparation will be the main roles. Just getting out and promoting our program and then connecting with the guys that we feel will be a good fit for us at Utah State. We’re only as good as our players. They’re the lifeblood of our program. It’s super important that we know exactly who we’re bringing in here. Once we get them here then it’s our job to help them improve on the court, so skill development will be another big role. I love getting in the gym and working with guys. I’ll spend most of my time working with and helping develop our perimeter players. It’s all about our guys building confidence in themselves so they can go out and perform at a high level. Coach Smith talks a lot about skill development in the recruiting process. We take a lot of pride in this area and make it a priority to make sure our guys are getting better throughout their careers with us. Game preparation will be another big role. Our scouting reports are pretty thorough and Coach Smith is big on making sure our guys are well prepared each time we step on the court. As Coach Smith would say “there’s a way to win every game.”
Q: You talked a little bit about recruiting. Utah State signed a couple guards in this late period in John Knight III and Tauriawn Knight. What do those two guys bring to the program, and what are your expectations for them?
Hansen: “John Knight III is a great kid. He’s played a year of college basketball, so he has some experience of playing at this level and he’s a big-time athlete. He’s going to bring some Mountain West athleticism to our backcourt. He can really create in the open floor. It’s tough to slow him down with his athleticism and vision to find guys on the break. In the half court he does a great job of getting in the paint and finishing through contact at the rim. Coach Smith is big on getting to the free throw line and he averaged eight free throw attempts per game this year. We think he can also be tremendous on the defensive end. He’s got great feel. He was one of the top shot blockers for his position at the junior college level this year. Our guys are going to love playing with John.
“Tauriawn is the ultimate competitor. You know what you’re going to get from him every day. He’s very consistent that way. He had a great senior season that ended in the state championship game. He brings versatility and toughness to our backcourt. We think he has tremendous feel for the game and really sees the floor. He just makes the right play. He’s a team guy. He averaged over 19 points per game this year, but he’ll do whatever it takes to win whether that’s scoring, setting guys up, or taking the assignment of defending the opponent’s best player. He’s another guy that’s not afraid to get after it on the defensive end. He’s tough as nails. It’s crazy, but at his size he’s also got a great knack for blocking shots. Tauriawn’s a great kid and a great fit for our program. We think he’s got a lot of potential and his competitive spirit is going be great for our team.”
Q: You talked about your different roles. What’s your favorite part about coaching?
Hansen: “Being a part of the process of helping guys, 18 to 23 years old, figure out life a little bit. Some of the people that had the most impact on me were my coaches and teachers. They taught me great lessons that shaped me into the husband, father, and coach I am today. Coaching is an unbelievable avenue to give back. You get to help guys mature and grow into young men. You get to help them build confidence in themselves. We start building relationships with guys when they’re juniors in high school and then we can see them all the way through until they’re seniors in college. That’s a five to seven-year window where the guys are shaping who they are and it’s fun to be a part of that time in their lives.”
Q: What’s your favorite memory as a basketball coach?
Hansen: “Well I really enjoy the process of building teams. I’ve been a part of three programs, Minnesota State, South Dakota State and South Dakota, where we started at the bottom of the league and then we built them into conference champions. At South Dakota State, which was my alma mater, we were able to take that final step and earn a NCAA Tournament berth. It was the school’s first ever appearance in the Big Dance so it was pretty special. The NCAA Tournament was an unbelievable experience and the amount of work everyone put into turning the program around and getting it to that level was so rewarding. We were fortunate to make the NCAA Tournament twice, but I’ll never forget that first one. We were also able to see one of our players, Nate Wolters, become the 38th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. It was fun to watch him take his game to a professional level and see all of his hard work pay off. You don’t see too many guys at the mid-major level get drafted, so to see his name flash up on the draft board was a pretty cool experience. At South Dakota we were picked eighth to start the year. We had 10 new guys, between redshirts and guys that were new to our program, that we had to get on the same page. We had injuries to key guys throughout the season. We had to win four out of our last six games on the road in February to win the conference championship. That was tough. It was a heck of a season. Coach Smith pushed all of the right buttons and more importantly pushed them all at the right times. We had a great group of guys that really played for each other that year. They were warriors. It was very rewarding to see how far we had come with that program. Those last two years at USD were a lot of fun. We were also able to see one of our guys, Matt Mooney, become the school’s first two-time all-league player and one of the best players in the conference. It was really fun to be a part of his development.”
Q: I know basketball’s kind of a 24/7 deal, what are you doing when you’re not around basketball?
Hansen: “Being a dad. I used to enjoy golfing, and now that we have a family, being dad has taken priority. We’ve got three little girls, and they keep us pretty active. They’re worth adding a few more strokes to my golf game. Our oldest two just started tee ball the other day. We’ll be cheering for the Yankees and Giants this summer. There’s going be a lot of “catch” going on at the park. Basketball camps, soccer, and swimming lessons also will have us on the go. When we’re not outside you’ll probably find us in the toy room playing with ALL of their Disney princesses and toy dolls. I can never keep them straight but my girls are always quick to correct me when I get them wrong.”
Q: You were named Mr. Basketball in the state of South Dakota coming out of high school. What did it mean to you to win that award?
Hansen: “Now you need to rephrase that. It was co-Mr. Basketball with Mike Miller. He had one heck of an NBA career too. It was probably a proud moment more so for my dad. He’s always been my number one fan and he saw all the work that it took. We had a tough and super-competitive group of guys. We just all knew how to play the game at a high level. Our high school was known more for football than basketball so it was a really fun couple of years to put our school on the map in that sport. We played in front of some great crowds and to win the school’s first and still only state basketball title our senior year was a memorable feat.”
Q: Did you beat Mike Miller’s team in the playoffs or anything like that?
Hansen: “We did. We beat them in the state semifinals. Our junior and senior years, we were 5-0 against his team from Mitchell. That would be a great trivia question.”
Q: You’ve lived most of your life in the Midwest. What are your impressions of Logan and Cache Valley?
Hansen: “Well it’s got a very similar feel to South Dakota, only we’ve added mountains around us. The people are very friendly and welcoming. We just moved into our house this weekend and we had neighbors over introducing themselves and asking if there’s anything they can do to help. The community has been very supportive. They love their Aggie basketball. That’s what we’re excited about, getting here and being a part of a place that’s really going to support us. It’s a much bigger community than where we were at in South Dakota, but it’s still got kind of that small-town feel to it. The mountains add some great scenery and make it an awesome drive to work.”
Q: Talk about your family a little bit.
Hansen: “My wife Andrea is amazing. The coaching profession is very demanding and she’s always been very supportive. There’s a lot of extra hours spent in the gym with the guys or in the office watching film or nights on the road recruiting so you’re away from your family a lot. There’s no question she’s the rock of our family. She played college basketball and had a very successful career. Our kids have a chance if they get her athleticism. She was a middle school science teacher and now that we’ve started to have a family she’s been working from home. She loves being a mom. We have three great kids because of her. She’s also the adventurous one, likes being outdoors and loves hiking. She couldn’t make the move fast enough. Those mountains were calling her name. Our three daughters each have their own unique personality. Hannah is five and she’s the sweet and sensitive one. She’s in full swing with tee ball, basketball, soccer and swimming lessons. She can’t wait for our games. She loves to hang out by the tunnel and give the guys a high five as they run onto the floor. We’re working on our “Go Aggie” chants. Then there’s our three-year-old Hadlee. She’s got a little stubborn side to her. You’re going have to earn her trust. She likes to hang out and play house with all of her dolls. She’ll be going to pre-school this year. Harper is two and our youngest one. She’s a go-getter. She’s going to make sure her big sisters don’t leave her out. She’s not afraid to get in the mix. You have to keep your eye on her. We get a lot of laughs from watching her.”
Q: What’s your favorite piece of office decoration?
Hansen: “You know what, (gesturing to his family photos) it’s my family pics. I mean, how do you not look at all four of those smiles and not get fired up. We spend a lot of hours away from our families and sometimes you just need a break from the daily grind. I love looking at those four pictures.”
Q: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
Hansen: “That’s a tough question. I’m not a big bucket-list guy. I inherited my dad’s work ethic and so I like to dive into my work. My wife is the adventurous one and comes up with things to do. She wants to do a couple of hikes for sure. Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and the other one is the Grand Canyon. I’m not so sure. Heights make me nervous. I’m not sure I could handle it. The last thing we’ve talked about doing is white water rafting. That sounds more up my alley.”
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