Luhm: Boylen prospers as Pacers assistant
Jim Boylen occasionally found the time to attend Jazz practice during his four seasons as the coach at the University of Utah.
I remember one visit, early in his reign with the Utes, when Boylen and I were talking.
Jerry Sloan approached and the two coaches spoke for a moment before Boylen excused himself and walked away.
When he was out of earshot, Sloan turned to me and said, "Jimmy's a really good coach, isn't he?"
It was more of a statement than a question a conversation I've always remembered since Sloan's stamp of approval was good enough for me.
Still, Boylen didn't last at Utah.
The Utes went 27-35 and failed to reach any kind of postseason tournament during his final two years. He was fired after the 2010-11 season.
Nearly two years later and not counting a brief layover at Salt Lake International last summer Boylen returned to Utah for the first time Friday and Saturday.
In his second season as an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers, Boylen came to Salt Lake for Saturday night's game against the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.
"Everybody's good," Boylen reported. "Our family is good. We enjoy living in Indiana. The kids are in school. My wife's doing great. ... We're good."
On the court, Indiana has been more than good.
After a run to last season's conference semifinals, where they lost to Miami in six bruising games, the Pacers again have emerged as one of the East's top teams.
Despite playing without injured All-Star Danny Granger, who remains sidelined with a knee injury, Indiana has won 13 of its last 18 games and is challenging for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Coach Frank Vogel gives much credit to assistants Brian Shaw, Dan Burke and Boylen.
"Jim is one of the brightest basketball minds I've ever been around," Vogel said. "What he's brought to the table is energy and I can't stress this enough his intelligence and high IQ for the game."
Vogel continued: "He's helped more than most assistant coaches help. Having someone of his quality has been a key point for a young head coach and inexperienced head coach like me."
This is Boylen's 15th year as an NBA assistant, including 11 with the Houston Rockets. He also was an assistant at Michigan State before taking the coaching job at Utah.
"I really enjoyed it here," Boylen said. "My family liked living here, and I loved being the coach at Utah. It was a great experience for me.
"I learned a ton. I grew a ton. We had some success, we graduated our guys and we operated our program the right way. ... It just wasn't meant to be."