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Washington lands Danny Sprinkle as head coach with family ties and Big Ten future

Washington hired Utah State's Danny Sprinkle as its men's basketball coach on Monday hoping his success at smaller schools and lineage to the university can revitalize the program as it moves into the Big Ten starting next season.

Sprinkle's hiring came one day after Utah State was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament with a second round loss to Purdue.

“It was going to take something special for me to leave Logan, and the University of Washington was it,” Sprinkle said in a statement. “The university means a great deal to our family and I am excited to return to my home state.”

Sprinkle, 47, spent just one season at Utah State but it was a massively successful year. The Aggies went 28-7 and won the Mountain West regular-season title after being picked to finish ninth in the preseason poll. Utah State reached the semifinals of the Mountain West tournament and won its first NCAA Tournament game since 2001 when it topped TCU in the first round.

Leaving Utah State after just one season probably wasn’t in the plans for Sprinkle, but turning down a chance to take over at Washington likely couldn’t be passed up, especially considering his family connection. Sprinkle’s father, Bill, played football for the Huskies in the 1960s.

Sprinkle agreed to a six-year deal worth $22.1 million at Washington that starts at $3.2 million in guaranteed compensation and rises to $4.2 million in the final year, per the memorandum of understanding.

“Coach is exactly what our program needs at this moment in time and we are thrilled to have him take the reigns of our men’s basketball program,” interim Washington athletic director Erin O'Connell said.

Sprinkle will replace Mike Hopkins, who was let go with one year remaining on his contract. Hopkins spent seven seasons at Washington and made the NCAA Tournament only once.

Hopkins’ tenure was defined by a frustrating stretch of mediocre results, an inability to put Washington back into the elite of the Pac-12 and with the Huskies moving to the Big Ten starting next season. Washington went 17-14 overall this season and finished 9-11 in Pac-12 play. Hopkins was 118-106 overall, but just 62-72 in conference play during his time at Washington.

Sprinkle will be walking into an odd situation without a permanent sitting athletic director. Troy Dannen unexpectedly left Washington to take over at Nebraska last week, leaving a void as the Huskies attempted to complete the hiring for one of its most prominent positions.

Dannen conducted interviews and put together an offer that was waiting for Sprinkle once the Utah State season came to an end. The uncertainty was whether Sprinkle would accept it and take the job not knowing who his boss would be.

But the draw of coaching in a power conference was too much to turn down. Sprinkle spent four seasons as the head coach at his alma mater of Montana State before taking the head job in Logan. Sprinkle has coached in the NCAA Tournament in three straight seasons, earning back-to-back bids his final two seasons at Montana State before guiding Utah State to an unexpected bid this season.

Sprinkle also has significant connections in southern California after spending a decade as an assistant at Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness