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Cal Poly to part ways with head men’s basketball coach John Smith

John Smith
John Smith, seen here on Nov. 29, 2023, will not return as Cal Poly men's basketball coach. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Cal Poly announced Friday it will part ways with head men's basketball coach John Smith following the conclusion of the season.

The move ends a disappointing five-year tenure for Smith, who has compiled an overall record of 30-114, to go along with a Big West Conference record of 9-74.

Over the course of the past two seasons, Cal Poly has lost 35 consecutive Big West regular season games, which is an all-time conference record.

This season, the Mustangs are 4-25 overall and 0-17 in the Big West Conference. Cal Poly has currently lost 17 straight games dating back to its last win on Dec. 21, 2023.

"Thanks to John for his leadership and commitment to our university," Cal Poly Director of Athletics Don Oberhelman said in a statement. "We wish him the very best with what is next for him and his family."

Hired in March 2019, Smith succeeded Joe Callero, who was let go following the 2018-19 season after finishing a 10-year run as head coach, which included the team's first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2014.

Under Smith, the Mustangs never could find the level of success it was seeking when he was brought on board.

Smith was not able to lead Cal Poly to double digit wins in any season, with the high point turning out to be the 2022-23 campaign when the Mustangs finished with an overall record of 8-25.

The team especially struggled in conference action, winning only nine regular season games the past five seasons combined.

Smith did lead Cal Poly to a pair of Big West Tournament victories, including last year, with a surprising 20-point first round win over Long Beach State.

The win ended a record 18-game losing streak, and at the time, was a hopeful turning point for the program.

Instead, two of the team's best players, Alimamy Koroma and Brantly Stevenson decided to transfer out of Cal Poly, leaving the Mustangs with a void it wound up not being able to fill during the current season.

This year's squad featured nine new players, along with seven returning letterman, but with so many new faces, combined with the loss of Koroma and Stevenson, the Mustangs never quite found a consistency and formula to get the program turned in the right direction.

To begin the 2023-24 campaign, the Mustangs opened with a 59-44 loss in an exhibition game with Division II Cal State Los Angeles, a harbinger of what turned out to be a difficult season marked with injury and illness.

In late November, Cal Poly was able to knock off San Jose State in a thrilling overtime win in Mott Athletics Center, but wasn't able to build off the emotional win, dropping its next four games.

On Dec. 21, 2023, the Mustangs beat Omaha at home 66-53 in what has turned out to be the team's last victory.

Cal Poly has currently lost 17 straight games, one season after losing 18 straight games.

In addition to the team's overall struggles, as well as in the Big West Conference, Smith was never able to beat Blue-Green rival UCSB.

In 10 career games against the Gauchos, Smith went winless, including last night's 83-75 defeat in the Thunderdome.

Dating back to Callero's tenure, Cal Poly has dropped 14 straight games to UCSB. The Mustangs last win in the Blue-Green Rivalry was seven years ago on Jan. 4, 2017.

The university announced Smith will continue to coach the Mustangs through the final three games of the season.

Cal Poly will host Cal State Bakersfield in the team's final home on Saturday, March 2 at 7 p.m.

The Mustangs close out the campaign and the Smith era with a pair of road games, Thursday, March 7 at UC Irvine (7 p.m.), and Saturday, March 9 at UC San Diego (4 p.m.)

Cal Poly said Friday a national search for a new head coach is now underway.

Article Topic Follows: College Sports
cal poly basketball
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