James Ware leaves Minnesota for assistant coaching job at Utah State

Ware coached former Gophers star Kris Humphries at Hopkins High School.

Robert Mews

James Ware, who helped coach former Gophers basketball star and current Utah Jazz forward Kris Humphries in high school and college, has a tough time holding a job.

But for Ware, that isn’t a bad thing.

Ware, who has spent the past three seasons as Minnesota’s Director of Basketball Operations, was hired by Utah State University on Aug. 11 as an assistant coach.

“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for me to move up.”

It’s been six years since Ware earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors at Texas Tech University as a player and just three years since he left an assistant coaching job at Hopkins High School to take the Director of Basketball Operations position at Minnesota.

Yet it was the connections from the past that helped him pay dividends and land his newest gig.

Ware began his college

playing days at Colorado State University before transferring to Texas Tech. At that time, Stew Morrill was the head coach for Colorado State. Morrill is now the coach at Utah State.

“We just stayed in very close contact with him when he left Colorado State,” Morrill said. “James, I think, has a very bright future in this business.”

Ware’s career might have benefited from coaching Humphries in high school and college, but Ware said that is just coincidence.

Humphries was at Hopkins High School when Ware was coaching there. Humphries went to Minnesota and Ware followed. Just two years ago, Humphries went to Utah, and now the same can be said for Ware, except he isn’t coaching for the Jazz.

It’s a highly visible trail of following Humphries. But Ware said he doesn’t think that the NBA player’s success is the reason for his coaching moves.

“Kris Humphries coming to Minnesota really had nothing to do with me,” he said. “It’s just that you hear Kris Humphries’ name thrown up there just in the sense that he’s kind of a well-known player Ö and the fact that I had a chance to coach him in high school and in college.”

It’s in Ware’s new role as assistant coach that he’ll be responsible for Minnesota prep stars coming to Utah State. It could also divert more talented Minnesota kids away from the Gophers in what has already been a tough recruiting state.

But Ware said he doesn’t see it so much as a competition for recruits between two schools as he sees it as a situation for kids to be successful.

“I’m just going to be out there and give kids an opportunity,” he said. “So I’m thinking it’s going to be great.”

The situation at Utah State should be an opportunistic one, as the Aggies, under Morrill, have been a constant NCAA Tournament contender and have compiled a .756 winning percentage in his eight seasons.

For the Gophers, they’re left to replace a young person who is quickly going up the college coaching ladder.

“We’ll begin the search right away,” Minnesota assistant coach Bill Walker said. “He’ll be missed, but we have to move on as a basketball organization.”