The news has been out there for almost a week, but today, Joel Justus’ move from Kentucky to Arizona State became official. The Sun Devils announced the hiring this afternoon, and Kentucky followed up with a press release of its own including quotes from Justus and John Calipari.
“It is hard for me to believe that my time at Kentucky has come to an end,” Justus said in Kentucky’s release. “The memories I have of this place, the players I have been for fortunate enough to coach and form lifelong relationships with, and the honor I have had to coach at the winningest program in college basketball is something I will never take for granted. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime.
“With that said, this was a challenge and an opportunity at Arizona State under Bobby Hurley that I felt like was in the best interest of my career as I continue to chase my dreams in the coaching profession. Coach Hurley was an icon and a role model of mine growing up, and to have the opportunity to learn from him was something I just couldn’t pass up, similar to when I began this journey seven years ago under a Hall of Fame coach in John Calipari.
“I want to thank Coach Cal for taking that chance on me to work for the greatest tradition in college basketball and learn at the highest level. I also want to thank Mitch Barnhart for entrusting me with playing a part in this program to lead our student-athletes. Kentucky will always hold a special place in my heart. To the young men I have had the privilege of coaching at Kentucky, you will always be family.”
“Joel talked to me about this opportunity to be at Arizona State with a terrific coach in Bobby Hurley,” John Calipari said. “He had my blessing, but I want to make sure we all recognize that we are losing someone who was a big, big part of all our success over the last several years. From Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to Keldon Johnson to Immanuel Quickley and others, Joel was not only the point guy with some of our players who became special, he helped develop them, teach them and challenge them. Joel is one of the top young assistants in the country who I believe will make a heck of a head coach someday soon. I wish him the best and I will always be a great supporter of his.”
Justus, who just completed his fifth season as an assistant coach and his seventh total with the program, joined the staff during the 2014-15 season as the team’s director of analytics. In that role, Justus analyzed player and team performance, utilizing various stats and data to help develop efficient strategies through video. He developed tools that streamlined the decision-making process of the coaching staff using advanced statistical modeling and analysis. He also analyzed large data sets to aid the coaching staff’s scouting reports as well as postgame analysis. He assisted in day-to-day operations of the program, which included coordinating with NBA personnel while assisting in many areas of basketball operations.
He was then elevated to special assistant to the head coach in 2015-16 before taking over as a full-time assistant in 2016-17, a position he has held ever since. In this role, Justus was instrumental in recruiting the likes of Brandon Boston Jr., Skyy Clark, Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickley, Bryce Hopkins and Ashton Hagans to Lexington, along with developing the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyrese Maxey and Tyler Herro at the guard positions. The Athletic and ESPN both tabbed Justus one of the top 40 coaches in college basketball under 40 years old in 2020.
“I am really excited to welcome coach Joel Justus to the Sun Devil family,” Sun Devil Head Coach Bobby Hurley said in a release. “Joel’s experiences working at Kentucky for the last seven years are invaluable. He checks all the boxes in what you look for in a high-level coach. I am really enthusiastic about the opportunity to work together and further advance Sun Devil Men’s Basketball.”
Best of luck to Joel in his new role with Arizona State. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.