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Monson: Utah basketball is an embarrassment

Published December 16, 2011 11:22 pm

College basketball • Chris Hill's legacy may depend on fixing this mess
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

Extracting any kind of hope for Ute basketball out of the Utah-BYU game at the Huntsman Center on Saturday is like stepping on a single termite and believing your infestation problem is on its way to being solved.

A 19-point loss to a rival in what might have been the ugliest game in the history of college hoops is no victory, moral or otherwise. It's just another reminder that the Utes' foundation has been eaten away and the walls of a program with a proud tradition are now blowing in the wind.

It's understood that the best of Jim Boylen's players, such as they were, left the team after the coach was let go last season and that it will take time for Larry Krystkowiak to reconstruct what was already a lurching program, a program built mostly on buffoonery and bluster.

But the fall of one of America's great college basketball traditions is flat-out shocking, even though its demise has been drawn out. It started under Rick Majerus, who, at times, abandoned his team and, once it was fairly clear he was on his way out, made dubious recruiting decisions.

From there, athletics director Chris Hill consecutively hired the wrong replacements.

Ray Giacoletti is a terrific guy who gave the Utes one last moment of glory by traveling to Australia to talk Andrew Bogut into returning to Utah for that final run, but, thereafter, when Bogut turned pro and Randy Rahe left the coaching staff, the wheels rotated off.

The Boylen hire came next.

Jim is a passionate man, a fine man, supposedly a teacher of the game, but he was a lousy head basketball coach. If a problem came up, his solution was to pound it with a blunt object, and, over time, his players got tired of getting hit over the head. He had a so-so year and one good year.

Trouble was, he was paid as though he had a thousand good years, somehow in the mediocre mix getting a five-year extension out of Hill. Same with Giacoletti, who had signed a seven-year deal.

Hill has made big errors, then, as they pertain to basketball, which is curious since he knows the game, once having been an assistant coach. Ironically, his greatest achievement — finding a way to get the Utes into the Pac-12 — will repeatedly remind everyone this season of how bad Utah basketball has become. On the other hand, everyone would have been reminded had the Utes played in the Big South or the Murray Rec League.

If any Utah fan wants hope, it might be found in this: Hill isn't ducking away. He was present at the Utah-BYU game, and told The Tribune's Kurt Kragthorpe: "… I just know that we're going to make sure we can get to where our history tells us we can be. … I hurt when we hurt, because I'm a part of this, by far. Sometimes, you've got to take a step back and understand that we've got good people in place, and have confidence in them."

I'm not sure about the first or last part of that, seeing that Hill also thought Giacoletti and Boylen were good people in place and that's why he ended up paying them millions of dollars, even after they were fired and floating on rafts in their backyard pools.

But the middle part, the accountability part, shows that Hill admits that he, himself, is at the center of the crater, shovel in hand, in which Utah basketball now sits. He has no choice but to own it. And he's a proud enough man to be motivated to find a way to get the Utes back out.

His legacy at Utah depends on it.

GORDON MONSON hosts "The Gordon Monson Show" weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson. Idaho State at Utah

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