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Krystkowiak says Hearlihy injuries were more severe than program knew

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak defended asking Josh Hearlihy to release himself from his letter of intent, saying the forward had more injuries than the coaching staff realized when he signed with the program in November.

"Our physicians, ourselves, we just got cold feet," Krystkowiak said Thursday morning on the Hans and OC Show on 97.5 FM The Game.

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Krystkowiak said the coaches did not do their due diligence in investigating the 6-foot-7 wing's health, and that they learned only after he signed that he had suffered a broken back.

Hearlihy released a statement to the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday in which he said Utah coaches "reconsidered their commitment to me" and that he was "concerned about putting myself in an environment where I'm not wanted."

The Utah program came under fire from fans and national media, including Yahoo Sports, which questioned the move in an article with the headline, "Utah is risking its reputation by running off signed recruit."

Krystkowiak said the timing of the release made it seem like he tried to back out of the agreement with Hearlihy on the eve of the late signing period, which wasn't the case.

"I was disappointed when the article comes out," Krystkowiak said. "We're not going to use the media to sling things back and forth, and I think Josh got caught maybe a little bit surprised. I don't know what the case might be, but release the article that we were pulling the rug out for underneath him, the timing was not the case. We've had a couple months of pretty open dialogue with the family."

Krystkowiak said he has been interacting with Hearlihy's mother, Melissa, who is the girls' basketball coach at Harvard-Westland (Calif.), where Hearlihy played.

Hearlihy missed most of his senior season with injuries, and Krystkowiak said he reached out to Melissa Hearlihy on Feb. 7 seeking a release.

"It just was a big red flag when he had a hard time getting through his senior year," Krystkowiak said.

He added: "It's a crossover between trying to do the right thing between in terms of the commitment and the signed scholarship and also trying to do the right thing for your program."

According to Krystkowiak, Hearlihy is expected to undergo another knee surgery and that he is exploring going to a prep school.

Krystkowiak said he would perhaps continue recruiting Hearlihy for next year if he went that route.

"I wouldn't be opposed ... to bringing him in," Krystkowiak said. "I just needed to see him in a system for a year or better, proving that he could be a D1 athlete."

Listen to the entire interview here.

— Bill Oram

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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