Cal Poly has had its own dose of March Madness despite the Mustangs’ absence from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Former head coach Joe Callero was fired at year’s end following one of the program’s worst seasons since joining the Big West Conference. Since then, rumors have swirled about who the school would tap as his replacement.
That question will likely be answered Thursday, when the university said it will hold a press conference to announce the hiring of Callero’s replacement.
The favorite, according to a Wednesday KSBY report, is current Cal State Fullerton associate head coach John Smith.
Smith has spent the past six seasons with the Titans, with two postseason appearances in the past two years — including a trip to the NCAA tournament in 2017, when Cal State Fullerton went 20-12.
Cal State Fullerton also reaped the rewards of having Smith on the recruiting trail. He helped recruit eight All-Big West selections in the past three seasons and secured a National Letter of Intent from three-star shooting guard Tory San Antonio this year.
Smith would have his work cut out for him in that area in SLO. Cal Poly has seen a talent drain following the departure of assistant coach Omar Lowery in 2013, now an assistant at Butler. The majority of the Mustangs’ talent has recently been supplied from the junior college system.
Smith was previously the head coach at Riverside City College, where he accumulated a 196-87 overall record — the second-highest win total in school history — along with four conference championships, nine postseason appearances and a state championship in 2009.
Prior to his time at RCC, he spent four years as head coach and assistant athletics director at San Bernadino Valley College from 2000 to 2004, recording an 88-44 overall record and a state championship semifinals appearance in 2002-2003.
Another rumor about Callero’s replacement came from the San Diego Union-Tribune reporting that Cal Poly would hire San Diego State assistant coach Rod Palmer.
He spent one season as an assistant in San Diego prior to serving for 11 seasons as an assistant on Dan Monson’s staff at Long Beach State.
The Union-Tribune also reported that recently fired UNLV head coach Marvin Menzies spoke with Cal Poly about the opening. Menzies went 48-48 in three years with Las Vegas.
Callero’s firing was announced with two games left in the season, after 10 years with the program. Callero led the Mustangs to a 126-184 overall record and its first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in 2014.
The Mustangs finished last in the Big West in their sixth straight losing season.
The press conference will be held at 4 p.m. in the foyer of the Performing Arts Center. University President Jeffrey D. Armstrong will tip off the event with opening remarks, followed by Cal Poly Director of Athletics Don Oberhelman, who will introduce the new head coach.
The general public is invited and parking in the Grand Avenue structure will be free from 3-6 p.m. A meet-and-greet with the new head coach will follow the press conference from 4:30 to 6 p.m.