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Krystkowiak has long list of needs to address

Published April 3, 2011 10:13 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utes have their basketball coach, now let the rebuilding begin. Where does that process start for Larry Krystkowiak, who will be announced as the new coach of the Runnin' Utes on Monday? Where can he not start might be the better discussion. Krystkowiak is jumping back into the college game with a huge task ahead of him. Not only does he have to rebuild the Utes as a basketball team, he has to come in and convince the players he wants to remain to do so, win back a fan base tired of rebuilding years and get the program ready to compete in the Pac-12. How is that for a "to do" list? Many I'm sure are skeptical of his qualifications for the tasks ahead, after all he was fired from his last position as a head coach. But really, as attractive as the Utes' athletic program might seem right now with the impending move to the Pac-12, the basketball program is on life support. Since Utah athletic director Chris Hill is a master at keeping his coaching searches secret, we'll probably never know for sure which coaches he contacted and which ones were scared off at the prospect of rebuilding the program. We do know for sure that Saint Mary's Randy Bennett considered it and said no thanks. Bennett's decision might make it seem the Utes settled for Krystkowiak, which means you can add that to his list too, he has to be energizing enough and successful enough for fans to get excited about the future rather than dwelling on the past. Since he hired Krystkowiak, Hill obviously didn't judge the coach too harshly for his short stint in the NBA, which was a difficult situation. He took over when Terry Stotts was fired during the 2006-07 season then injuries led to many of the struggles in the 2007-08 season. Course, a difficult situation is just what Krystkowiak will find himself in as the Utes' coach. His immediate concerns have to be convincing the players he wants to remain to stay. The Utes had five players transfer last year, which didn't help the team's success on the floor and added to the public image of an unhealthy basketball program. Meeting with the Utes and winning them over as their coach will be Krystkowiak's first task. Right behind that is going to be recruiting. He'll have to assemble a staff and make some inroads quickly so the Utes won't be more behind than they already are as they make the move to the Pac-12. Perhaps this is where Krystkowiak's western ties will pay off the most, although recruiting for the Pac-12 as opposed to recruiting for Montana seem like worlds apart. Along those lines, he needs to hit the ground in Utah and win over local high school coaches and re-open some talent pipelines that seemed to close when Boylen was in charge of the Utes. Finally, there are the fans he needs to worry about drawing back to the program. Thanks to football's success and the basketball struggles, Utah is firmly known as a football school. Boylen worked extremely hard to win back fans whether he was giving out tickets at Costco or howling into a mic at halftime of football games. But even after leading the Utes to the MWC title, Boylen couldn't lead the fans back. Football was hip and in, basketball was just boring and bombing. Can Krystkowiak change all that? No one can say for sure he can. What we do know is he wanted the task and for now, he is Hill's man for the job.