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Ryan Odom career timeline: Utah State coach has place in March Madness history with UMBC upset

Sporting News 3/16/2023 Dan Treacy
© Provided by Sporting News

Utah State enters the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a slight favorite over Missouri, but Aggies coach Ryan Odom might prefer being an underdog.

Odom was the head coach at UMBC when the little-known Retrievers stunned the college basketball world and upset No. 1 Virginia in 2018.

UMBC was the first No. 16 seed to ever take down a No. 1 seed, and the Retrievers didn't leave any doubt — they won by 20 points. The victory put both Odom and UMBC on the national map, and it's fair to say that game set the stage for Odom to become Utah State's head coach three years later.


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Here's a look at how the 48-year-old Odom worked his way up the coaching ranks and back into the NCAA Tournament. 

Ryan Odom career timeline

1996-2015: Assistant coach

Odom spent nearly two decades as an assistant coach at several stops before getting a chance to lead a program. 

Below is a full list of his assistant coaching stops.

  • 1996-1997: South Florida (Graduate assistant)
  • 1997-1999: Furman
  • 1999-2000: UNC Asheville
  • 2000-2003: American
  • 2003-2010: Virginia Tech
  • 2010-2015: Charlotte (Associate HC)

Odom spent seven seasons under Seth Greenberg at Virginia Tech, and he later earned the role of associate head coach under Alan Major at Charlotte.

2015: Interim head coach (Charlotte)

Odom served as Charlotte's interim coach for a majority of the 2014-15 season as Major dealt with health issues. The 49ers went 8-11, and the staff was fired after the season. 

Despite the setback, Odom was able to land on his feet and advance his career.

2015-2016: Head coach (Lenoir-Rhyne)

Odom accepted his first head coaching job at Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, dropping down a level for the chance to lead his program.

His stay at Lenoir-Rhyne would be a short one. Odom led the program to the quarterfinals of the Division II tournament, finishing 21-10 including 14-6 in-conference.

After the season, a new Division I opportunity awaited him.

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2016-2021: Head coach (UMBC)

Odom was hired to replace Aki Thomas at UMBC, which had been one of the America East Conference's worst teams for several years. The results were immediate. The Retrievers failed to reach double-digit wins in each of the four seasons before Odom took over, but they went 21-13 in his first year on the job. 

One year later, UMBC won the America East Tournament and was penciled in to play top overall seed Virginia in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The rest is history. The Retrievers pulled off one of the most improbable victories in the history of the tournament and etched their name in college basketball lore.

Odom would stick around for three more seasons at UMBC, winning 21 games in 2018-19 and winning the America East regular season title in 2020-21. The Retrievers came up short in their conference tournament in 2021, so 2018 remains their most recent NCAA Tournament appearance.

2021-Present: Head coach (Utah State)

Odom's success at UMBC led him to one of the best mid-major conferences in the country when Utah State hired him to replace Craig Smith, who left for Utah. 

The decision was a leap for the Aggies, as all of Odom's coaching stops had been on the eastern side of the United States and the Mountain West Conference is an entirely different challenge. 

So far, so good. Utah State underwhelmed a bit in Odom's first season, finishing 18-16 and seventh in the Mountain West. The Aggies have quickly moved in the right direction this season, entering the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed after a 26-8 season.

Utah State took San Diego State down to the wire in the conference title game and is favored against Missouri to open the tournament.

It'll be worth watching whether Odom becomes a candidate for more significant coaching vacancies in the coming years, particularly as he thrives in an entirely new part of the country.

MORE: Five Cinderella stars who could bust your March Madness bracket

2018 Virginia vs. UMBC upset

Virginia was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament thanks to one of the nation's best defenses. The Cavaliers allowed an average of 54 points per game, the best mark in the country, and their only losses before the upset came against West Virginia and Virginia Tech.

UMBC inexplicably scored 53 points against Virginia's defense in the second half alone. The Retrievers shot 12-of-24 from 3-point range, getting 28 points out of Jairus Lyles.

It was an offensive explosion that proved to be unsustainable for UMBC, which scored just 43 points against Kansas State two days later. Considering the Retrievers scored just 21 points in the first half, the most reasonable explanation might be that pure adrenaline took over for Odom's team in he second half of that historic game.

MORE: NCAA Tournament upset memories: No. 16 UMBC stuns No. 1 Virginia

Another No. 16 seed will take down a No. 1 seed at some point in the future. Until that day, the story of Odom and UMBC will resurface each and every March. 

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