SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Cal Poly officially announced John Smith as new men's basketball coach Thursday afternoon.
At a press conference inside the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center, the former Cal State Fullerton assistant was introduced by president Jeffrey Armstrong, as well as athletic director Don Oberhelman.
"It's a dream come true," said Smith. "It's a great day to be a Mustang!"
Smith said he was attracted to the job in large part due to Cal Poly's prestigious academic reputation, as well as the quality of life on Central Coast.
"Without a doubt," said Smith. "This is a great place to live, a great place to play, so those are the things that you talk to, you speak about in recruiting. The quality of life and the quality of education here is second to none."
Smith spent the past six years as the associate head coach at Cal State Fullerton.
While there, he helped turn around the Titans into a top-tier Big West Conference program.
Last season, the Titans earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament. This year, they came within one win of a return trip before losing to UC Irvine in the Big West Tournament championship game.
Smith believes he can spark a similar turnaround at Cal Poly.
"The cupboard is full here. They know how to score and they know how to play," said Smith. "I really feel that this team can compete in the Big West Conference for a championship next year. I really do."
To earn the head coach position, his first ever in Division I, Smith beat out what Oberhelman described as a great candidate pool.
"John just wowed us with his ability to be a part of this community," Oberhelman said. "He impressed us with his knowledge of Cal Poly. He impressed us with his knowledge of basketball, his X's and O's, what they do at Fullerton and what he wants to bring here and the way he wants to work with smart basketball players."
Both Oberhelman and Smith emphasized the academic nature of the university.
Cal Poly has some of the highest academic standards for student-athletes in all of Division I.
Despite the challenges that comes with those requirements, Smith said it's something he fully embraces.
"The admissions here is not a crutch. It's a weapon," Smith said. "The way that we want to play, I want to give the players full autonomy. I want them to play fast and under control and our style is going to have to deal with al lot of counters defensively doing some different schemes, so you need some high character, high IQ kids to that and that's what we have here and that's what we'll recruit to."
Smith described himself as a defensive coach, but promised the Mustangs would play an appealing, attractive offense.
"We're going to be fun," Smith said. "We're going to play fast and exciting and we're going to get up in people's grill and make sure they're uncomfortable."
Prior to his stint at Cal State Fullerton, Smith built two strong programs at the junior college level.
At Riverside City College, he was the head coach from 2004-13 and won the 2009 California Community College Athletic Association state championship.
At San Bernardino Valley College, he coached from 2000-04 and led the team to the state semifinals.
In 2016, Smith was inducted into the California Community College Men's Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Now, he's hoping for similar success with the Mustangs.
"The way that I've coached, I've had success in the past and I have confidence that what they have here and what we're able to do, we'll be successful," said Smith.
Smith succeeds Joe Callero, who was dismissed earlier this month after a 10-year run at Cal Poly.