In his third year as an assistant coach for the Runners, the Western Athletic Conference champions finished 24-9 (11-3 WAC), and had won 10-of-11 before losing to Final Four-bound Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA tourney.
Hsu, who was instrumental in bringing in Cal State’s top four scorers, has helped the program turn around after finishing a combined 27-38 (12-18 WAC) over the course of his first two years with the Runners.
A turnaround in which he nearly never assisted because of what transpired throughout his career to this point.
After growing up in Queens, playing basketball at Cabrini College, and coaching on the junior college and prep-school circuit, Hsu landed his first major gig serving as the director of Basketball Operations at Oregon State in 2007.
He later joined the Binghamton Bearcats coaching staff, where he oversaw recruiting duties, and was a key component in the team’s first ever America East title run and NCAA Tournament showing in 2008-09, where they lost to Duke in round one.
And then came the Binghamton basketball scandal.
It began in the fall of 2009 when starting point guard Emmanuel Mayben was arrested for possession of crack cocaine and later kicked off the team before the start of the 2009-10 season.
Hsu was later suspended and subsequently let go mid-season along with the rest of the coaching staff due to alleged NCAA violations. To this day, Hsu maintains his innocence.
“As soon as [the media] picked up on it, it started to take on a life of its own,” Hsu said of the Binghamton scandal. “The NCAA came in and spoke to everyone. Come to find out nothing was found, through all the interviews, investigation, and inaccurate media reports. The sad part is that the media is not going to talk about that part.”
Hsu says that he never received a secondary violation, and maintains that he was actually still at Oregon State when junior college standouts Malik Alvin and Mayben, along with St. John’s transfer DJ Rivera, had committed to play at Binghamton.
According to Hsu, his first additions to Binghamton were Dylan Talley and Greer Wright. Talley was later named A-East Rookie of the Year, and Wright earned an All-Conference first team award.
“Moving forward it was all about the perception of what happened at Binghamton,” he said. “The media is not going to say that the investigation came back and found that nothing was wrong. The standards were not changed for certain kids to get into Binghamton, all coaches were exonerated.”
After getting dropped from BU, Hsu says his only option was at Texas Southern University, a Division-I program in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Hsu assumed recruiting duties once again, along with another job as assistant coach.
In two years at Houston, Hsu was apart of and helped assemble a team that won the SWAC regular season title in 2011, along with earning an NIT berth that same season. After the 2011-12 campaign, the NCAA came knocking again, triggering flashbacks for the Queens born coach.
“Things were going great – my second year there, the NCAA came in to talk to our staff,” he said. “I had to go through the whole deal again with the NCAA, and come to find out, they were investigating a basketball player who was on a football scholarship, all of which transpired before I arrived.”
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and because of former Texas Southern head coach Tony Harvey’s sudden resignation, Hsu was once again a coaching casualty. At another low point, giving it up all together was an idea that crossed Hsu’s mind as he sat out of coaching the following season.
After taking the 2012-13 season off, Hsu got connected with current Cal State Bakersfield head coach Rod Barnes, whose staff had a hole to fill and needed help turning around a program with no history of significant winning.
Hsu’s first year at CSU-Bakersfield also happened to be the team’s first season in the WAC conference after previously competing as an independent school. The previous two seasons, which were the first two in the Rod Barnes era, CSU-Bakersfield went a combined 30-31.
“I was fortunate enough to land another job,” Hsu said. “The first year that I came here I said to coach Barnes, ‘it’ll take me two to three years to turn this thing around for you.’ We will be good for each other.”
This third season turned out to be one for the ages, with Cal State getting into the big dance for the first time. Hsu says the chemistry and leadership were outstanding, and the outpouring of support from the CSU-Bakersfield faithful was evident as the program sold out their first home game in 12 years, which marks their first sellout as a D-I competitor.
“We really started to do some good things this year and we started to get traction on how we want this program to run in the future,” Hsu said. “For me it was huge, because when I first took this job everyone was telling me that it was a hard place to win, but I always have the attitude where I can turn around tough jobs.
“For me to help turn this thing around was huge, for the school, for my career, just in terms of my overall rep in the business,” he added.
Hsu also spoke highly of coach Barnes, whom he said has served as a great mentor over the past three seasons.
“Working with coach Barnes has been a blessing in disguise,” Hsu said. “He’s really taught me a lot both on and off the court and has helped me tremendously in my career.”
In spite of getting axed by two other D-I programs and falling to discouraging lows, Hsu has found a way to bounce back with CSU-Bakersfield by helping build one of the more dangerous mid-majors on the west coast.
Wherever he’s gone, recruiting has served as his identity, a strength he utilizes to help any program he’s involved with.
“It’s not so much about the basketball, it’s about the life lessons,” Hsu said of connecting with recruits. “When they go to choose a school to play at it’s about the trust, and being in a home away from home essentially. That’s the feel that I try to give off to them during the recruiting process.”
To date, Hsu has recruited over 10 all-conference players, two Conference Players of the Year, one Freshman of the Year and one Defensive Player of the Year.
Coach Hsu says that while he’d like to become a head coach one day, he wants to continue to build upon that special something which has overtaken Bakersfield.
“I want to obviously try to continue on what we’ve done here,” he said. “I would love to be a head coach some day. I would love to be an assistant coach in the Pac-12, the Big East, Big Ten, Big12, so on and so forth.
“But for now, just taking it a day at a time,” he added. “We want to build this thing up and make it a powerhouse on the west coast.”
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY.