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Oram: Utes choice Krystkowiak has done this before

Published April 4, 2011 8:33 am

Utes' newly hired coach has Montana magic on résumé.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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 Utah men's basketball team Sunday hired Larry Krystkowiak, a 6-foot-9 dude who's been the head coach of only one college team, Montana, and two minor league ones: the Idaho Stampede and, well, the Milwaukee Bucks.

You don't like the résumé, the 110-105 combined record in those three stops? You want to know what's behind the neatly trimmed goatee that is supposed to lead your team into the Pac-12?

Let this serve as a Krystkowiak users' guide, an endorsement of Chris Hill's pick and a primer on the coach who, if I know him at all, is the right choice for a moribund program.

As a Montana student during Krystkowiak's most successful season, 2005-06, I watched the coach do remarkable things with a mostly unremarkable group of players. There were small-town Montana recruits, streaky shooters and junior college transfers.

That was the year Krysko (it's a nickname you'll come to use) took the Griz to the NCAA Tournament, and a first-round win in the Huntsman Center over No. 5-seeded Nevada. Before he was swept away by the Bucks, Krystkowiak was a hot commodity. There would have been no dissatisfaction had Hill hired him instead of Jim Boylen in 2007.

Larry K. (for those times "Krysko" doesn't quite fit) is a fiery sort, whose intense brand is more believable than the empty bluster of his predecessor.

"I've seen Larry get mad and obviously scream a little bit," former Grizzlies center Andrew Strait said. "That definitely just enhances his intimidation factor."

Strait swears by Krystkowiak. So does anyone else who played for him. Former players said Sunday that the one-time Utah Jazz player was an X's and O's master, but still endorsed the run-and-gun-style that fit his personnel. He was a wizard of in-game strategy, not waiting until halftime to make adjustments.

It's good news for the Utes, who need nothing if not immediate change.

That 2005-06 season, Krystkowiak's second and last at Montana, was a magical time in Missoula, where the Grizzlies were still getting used to winning after previous coach Pat Kennedy did his own version of Boylenizing the program.

Fact is, Krystkowiak has already done what Hill is asking him to do at Utah, just on a smaller stage.

Even though he was arguably Montana's best-ever player, his coaching experience was questioned when he was first hired there, too.

"Many people didn't know if he was a good hire when they brought him on," said Bryan Ellis, a point guard Krystkowiak recruited to Missoula from Salt Lake Community College, "and that turned to be a great hire for Montana."

No promises that Krysko will have the immediate success with Utah that he did at our shared alma mater — there are too many variables. Krystkowiak's intelligence, tenacity and ability, however, aren't among them.

boram@sltrib.com

Twitter: @oramb