Arkansas St. excited for Hodgson era

How excited is Jonesboro, Arkansas to have Bryan Hodgson as the new head men’s basketball coach at Arkansas State?

Well, the community has already erected billboards with his image on it.

Hodgson, the 2005 Jamestown High School graduate, has had the job since … Wednesday.

“I feel beyond excited and blessed, to be honest with you,” the University of Alabama assistant said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “There are only 363 of these (jobs) in the country and the one I’m at … is really a good job. … I had a couple opportunities this offseason, and this one made the most sense.”

The Red Wolves, who are members of the Sun Belt Conference, advanced to the second round of the conference tournament this year and finished with a 13-20 record. Hodgson replaces Mike Balado, who had been Arkansas State’s head coach since 2017.

“I got the call last week to interview,” Hodgson said. “They did a national search — some were sitting head coaches — and I kind of went through the process. … I got the phone call Monday night.

“I’ve never been a guy that had to be a head coach. It was never that way. I was willing to wait for the right one, and this was the right one.”

Hodgson has made a habit of making the right decisions when it comes to his basketball odyssey.

A graduate of Jamestown Community College and SUNY Fredonia, he began his coaching career at the latter, and followed with stints at Jamestown CC; Midland (Texas) College; and at the University of Buffalo, helping the Bulls to three Mid-American Conference titles and three NCAA Tournament appearances. When Nate Oates left UB to take the head coaching job at Alabama, Hodgson went with him and success followed.

Others have taken notice, including Arkansas State Vice Chancellor of Intercollegiate Athletics Jeff Purinton, who knew Hodgson when the former served as Alabama’s Executive Deputy Director of Athletics.

“We visited with a variety of outstanding coaches from multiple levels, but we ultimately identified Bryan as the perfect fit for our program and community,” he said in a statement posted to the Red Wolves’ basketball website. ” … He has a great vision for Arkansas State basketball and the blueprint to carry it out in order to elevate our program to new heights. I’m confident he will build a winning culture, and we look forward to his leadership as our head men’s basketball coach.”

But first thing’s first.

The Crimson Tide — the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament — will play No. 5 San Diego State in the Sweet 16 tonight in Louisville, Kentucky. Hodgson will be on the Alabama bench with Oats.

“San Diego State is a good team, very physical, a veteran team,” Hodgson said. “They’re nine deep and all nine guys can hurt you. They’re the fifth-best defensive team in the country and we’re also top-five defensively. It’s going to be a battle, with physicality. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

And, although Arkansas State finished only 4-14 in the Sun Belt Conference, Hodgson is excited about the future in Jonesboro, too.

“They’ve got some really good players that I’m going to try to get them to come back out of the (transfer) portal,” he said. “I’m excited for the challenge to build the roster with the style I want to play. … I’m looking forward to bringing players to Arkansas State that Jonesboro has never seen before. It’s a special place.”

Speaking of special places, Hodgson describes his native home the same way.

“I’m excited at the (introductory) press conference to talk a little bit about where I come from and why this ‘blue-collar’ mentality is really a thing to me,” he said. “Jamestown instilled that in me.”

Hodgson also credited the people who he played for.

“Ben Drake, Mike Cordovano, Kevin Moore, Marty Stockwell and Ken Ricker … I wouldn’t be here without any of those guys I just named,” he said. “I’m beyond blessed to have them in my circle. Jamestown prepared me for this opportunity. Jamestown is a unique and diverse place where you get to know every different way of life. I’ve used it as a benefit.”

Arkansas State’s hiring of Hodgson has been met with high praise from all directions.

Following are some examples, gleaned from the school’s website:

¯ Oats: “Bryan is not only one of the top recruiters in the country, but he is also a terrific coach who understands the game. He brings a lot of passion and energy in everything he does which has played a big part in our success at the University of Buffalo and University of Alabama.”

¯ Jay Bilas, ESPN: “Bryan has taken the hard path to success, and has overcome every obstacle in his way. He is smart, well trained, and fundamentally sound in every area of the game. What really stands out to me is his strong, close connection to his players. Bryan coaches, teaches and cares about the whole person. He’s going to be great at Arkansas State.”

¯ Seth Greenburg, ESPN: “Bryan will be a difference maker on campus and in the community. I’m excited to watch and talk about his success as he builds the Red Wolves into a perennial NCAA Tournament team.”

¯ Herb Jones, New Orleans Pelicans guard: “Jonesboro is going to love the energy and intensity he brings. Coach B breeds confidence in his players, and puts them in position to be successful.”

Hodgson admitted that his parents — Larry and Rebecca — are “kind of at a loss.”

“They’re proud of me, they’re emotional,” he said. “They know this has been a dream of mine.”

The dream is about to become a reality.

Hodgson wouldn’t mind if it was delayed a couple of weeks, though.

“Unfinished business,” he said. “Four more we need to win. We’re excited.”


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