SAN DIEGO -- Brian Dutcher led the Aztecs back to the NCAA tournament in his first year as head coach and immediately got a contract extension that keeps him on the Mesa through 2023. With basketball season tipping off in just under a month, he enters his second season with new challenges.
Dutcher enters his 20th season as a member of SDSU's coaching staff and admits he still gets nervous.
"Well I'm less comfortable in year two because Trey Kell and Malik Pope are gone so when I step out there and these other guys show me that they can play like that, then I'll get comfortable again," said Dutcher.
Long-time head coach Steve Fisher retired in 2017, leaving Dutcher with some pretty big shoes to fill. The 58-year-old responded well by leading the Aztecs to a 22-11 record and a trip to the NCAA tournament in his first season.
"Dutch...He's well-composed," said Aztecs senior guard Jeremy Hemsley. "He's a calm guy and I'm not sure too many head coaches could have done what he did last year just by the way that we started and some of the players that we had on our team and just how some things went last year."
"He went about it in one of a million ways and just the success that came to us and him being a first-year coach and what he did, I feel like we can only go up from here," said Aztecs sophomore guard Matt Mitchell.
The Aztecs ended their season on a nine-game win streak, capped off by winning the Mountain West Conference tournament.
"We knew he wanted to win," said Aztecs senior point guard Devin Watson. "It's his first year, who wouldn't want to win. And we understood that so we wanted to go out there every night and play hard for him and get it done for him and I feel like even though we had a rocky start in the beginning, in the end we finished very strong."
Aside from losing Kell and Pope to graduation, the biggest change for the Aztecs this season comes next to Dutcher, where he will see two new assistant coaches.
"Now I've got a new coaching staff that I've got to let spread their wings and show me what they can do from a coaching standpoint without having the tendency of a head coach to walk all over the top of them if it's not exactly what I want the second I want it," said Dutcher.
Only Hemsley and Nolan Narain have played under both Fisher and Dutcher. Acknowledging both as great coaches, Hemsley says Dutcher's character and message remain consistent.
"Not worry about everything else that comes with this and just worry about what's here in front of us," said Hemsley. "Worry about the team, worry about yourself and make good decisions and just be there for your brother, be there for the man next to you.”
Aztecs tip off their season November 1 versus Chaminade in an exhibition game.