These are the best moments of the decade in Utah sports

(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) celebrate the win over the Thunder. The Utah Jazz defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-91 to win the first round playoff series, Friday, April 27, 2018.

This decade is ending the way it started, with Utah always beating BYU in football, the Jazz never having the home-court advantage in a playoff series and Gary Andersen coaching at Utah State.

Otherwise, a lot has changed since 2010 — including multiple moves by Andersen, before he returned to Logan.

How long ago does any of this seem? Jimmermania, BYU quarterback Jake Heaps’ would-be winning drive against Utah and Jazz fans’ booing the drafting of Gordon Hayward. In 2010, Donovan Mitchell was an aspiring baseball player, Tony Finau thought he had blown his big break in pro golf and Taysom Hill was a teenager, barely.

The decade produced the retirement of Utah athletic director Chris Hill, who guided the Utes into the Pac-12 in one of the biggest developments in the state’s sports history. Some legendary coaches also exited: the Jazz’s inseparable tandem of Jerry Sloan/Phil Johnson, the married Marsdens of Utah gymnastics, Utah’s Elaine Elliott and Salt Lake Community College’s Betsy Specketer in women’s basketball and USU’s Stew Morrill and BYU’s Dave Rose in men’s basketball.

Other turnover included the unsuccessful attempts of Tyrone Corbin (Jazz), Tim Duryea (USU basketball) and Jeff Cassar (Real Salt Lake) to follow famed coaches, while Ty Detmer’s two-year stint as BYU’s offensive coordinator showed that even a Heisman Trophy has a shelf life.

Who stayed in place? Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham, BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and Weber State basketball coach Randy Rahe lasted through the decade. Having coached at Wisconsin and Oregon State and spent a third stint on the Utah staff, Andersen returned to USU — in the Mountain West Conference, seven years after the Aggies won the last football trophy awarded by the Western Athletic Conference.

The decade brought increasing diversity to Utah, with the hiring of Corbin and other African American coaches including Demario Warren (Southern Utah football), Velaida Harris (Weber State women’s basketball) and Marcilina Grayer (SLCC women’s basketball). Corbin was fired after 2½ seasons and Warren’s program has faded after a good start; Harris and Grayer are just getting going.

The 2010s produced Olympic medals for Utahns, a rodeo dynasty for the Wright family of Milford, two national championships for the Ute ski team, a title for BYU in men’s cross country and another NJCAA championship for SLCC men’s basketball. Utah’s gymnastics program failed to add a national championship to its collection, but earned the athletic program’s first Pac-12 title in 2014 (plus two more). More remarkably, the baseball team claimed Utah’s only Pac-12 championship in a men’s sport in 2016, after finishing last in each of the previous four seasons.

A closer look:


(Chris Detrick | Tribune file photo) Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver JD Falslev (12) collapses on the field after a potential game-tying field goal is missed at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. Utah won the game 24-21.

• In June 2010, Utah was welcomed to the Pac-10 with Tournament of Roses administrators presenting bouquets of flowers during a news conference, signifying the opportunity available to the football program. The Utes have yet to appear in the Rose Bowl, but they’re getting closer.

Only in its ninth season of Pac-12 football did Utah break even, now standing 42-39 in regular-season conference games after winning a second Pac-12 South title but falling short of the New Year’s Six bowls by losing to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. Whittingham earned his first Pac-12 Coach of the Year award, while a “contract amendment” may make defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley his eventual successor.

Andy Ludwig spent the first nine years of the decade working at other schools, while Whittingham went through seven play-callers. Ludwig returned to Utah as offensive coordinator this season, when the Utes beat BYU for a ninth straight time (the teams didn’t meet in 2014), matching the longest winning streak of the rivalry.

• BYU went independent in football and moved to the West Coast Conference in other sports, a move that ultimately helped former football coach Bronco Mendenhall get to a major bowl. Partly because he didn’t view independent success as “sustainable,” Mendenhall took on a seemingly bigger challenge at Virginia. The Cavaliers will play in Monday’s Orange Bowl as the Atlantic Conference runners-up in his fourth season.

Cougar coach Kalani Sitake has not matched Mendenhall’s success, but has stabilized his program with a second straight bowl bid, earning a contract extension before his defense allowed a late touchdown in a 38-34 loss to Hawaii on Christmas Eve to conclude another 7-6 season.

• USU followed its WAC achievement under Andersen by winning a Mountain West division title in coach Matt Wells’ first season. The Aggies then went up and down before Wells moved to Texas Tech and Andersen returned to Logan, going 7-6 this season as his defense gave up 51 points to Kent State in the Frisco Bowl.

• Weber State is a success story, with former Utah assistant Jay Hill leading the Wildcats to three consecutive FCS quarterfinal appearances, including a win at that stage this year. Hill’s achievements have come after he lost his first nine games in 2013, with the program having gone through three coaches in the previous two years.

• Jimmer Fredette’s emergence in 2011 as the nation’s leading scorer and Player of the Year made him the state’s top story in college basketball in 30 years, as BYU reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. Fredette never got traction in the NBA, but has thrived internationally.

• Utah made the Sweet 16 in 2015, with Delon Wright and Jakob Poeltl leading the Utes in the fourth season of Larry Krystkowiak’s rebuilding work. Kyle Kuzma, their teammate, since has made the biggest NBA impact of any player from a Utah school in a long time as a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers.


(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (45) and Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) celebrate the win over the Thunder. The Utah Jazz defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 96-91 to win the first round playoff series, Friday, April 27, 2018.

• Sloan did some of his best work in coaching the Jazz to a first-round playoff series win over Denver in 2010, but then the team was swept by the Los Angeles Lakers. After being rocked by Sloan’s sudden retirement the following February, the Jazz wouldn’t win another playoff game for seven years, while Ty Corbin was hired and fired and point guard Deron Williams was traded.

The franchise's recovery began with the hiring of coach Quin Snyder and the drafting of center Rudy Gobert. The Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers in a seven-game series that included five wins for road teams in 2017.

Just prior to losing Hayward to Boston in free agency that summer, the Jazz drafted Mitchell, who delivered 38 points in a close-out, Game 6 victory over Oklahoma City as a rookie and became easily the most popular Jazz player since John Stockton and Karl Malone. But the team went through the decade without playing in the Western Conference finals.

• Mike Trout appeared in 20 games for the Salt Lake Bees to begin the 2012 season and is now a three-time MVP of the American League (and a four-time runner-up). ESPN named him the best player of the decade.

• Real Salt Lake returned to Major League Soccer’s championship game in 2013, losing to Sporting Kansas City via penalty kicks in what became the last game for coach Jason Kreis. RSL has hired and fired two coaches since then, while Nick Rimando retired in October as the greatest goalkeeper in MLS history. The Utah Royals FC have become a fan attraction in the National Women’s Soccer League, and three of its players — Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press and Kelly O’Hara — were key cogs in Team USA’s 2019 World Cup championship. Speaking of championships, the RSL-affiliated Real Monarchs won the 2019 United Soccer League title this year.

• To conclude an up-and-down tenure in San Francisco, former Utah quarterback Alex Smith helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl, only to remain on the sideline in a 34-31 loss to Baltimore as Colin Kaepernick quarterbacked the team.

• Ex-Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner of Seattle and former BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy of New England anchored two of the top defensive performances in Super Bowl history. In the final season of the decade, Taysom Hill could become part of a Super Bowl team with New Orleans as one of the NFL’s most versatile players. The Saints might meet a Kansas City team coached by BYU alumnus Andy Reid.

• Finau was searching for places to play in pro golf at age 20 as the decade began, thinking he had missed a great opportunity by losing in the finals of the “Big Break” competition. Ten years later, he has earned nearly $17 million on the PGA Tour, while finishing in the top 10 in six major tournaments and representing the United States in both the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup.

• In his rookie year and his first National Finals Rodeo, Stetson Wright from won the all-around championship at the final night of the NFR this month in Las Vegas. Wright is part of a famous, Milford-based family of nine pro rodeo cowboys.


(Chris Detrick | Tribune file photo) Night Train 2, piloted by Steven Holcomb and pushed by Chris Fogt, Curtis Tomasevicz, Steve Langton, celebrate at the finish of the four-man bobsled at Sanki Sliding Center during the 2014 Sochi Olympics Sunday February 23, 2014. The team won the bronze medal with a cumulative time of 3:40.99.

• Prior to his death in 2017, former Park City High School running back Steven Holcomb became the most accomplished bobsledder in U.S. history with an Olympic gold medal and two silver medals as a driver.

• Utah native Ted Ligety won a second gold medal in skiing in 2014, when Park City product Sage Kotsenburg became one of the biggest stories in Sochi, Russia, by claiming a gold medal in snowboarding after growing up in Park City and Joss Christensen earned gold in freestyle skiing. Brett Camerota was part of a rare U.S. medal winning (silver) team in Nordic skiing in 2010 and Noelle Pikus-Pace produced one of the most memorable silver-medal performances in 2014, celebrating with her family in the finish area after completing her skeleton race.

Salt Lake City native Nathan Chen became a two-time world champion in figure skating, although his rally in the 2016 Olympics earned him only a fifth-place finish.

• And as another decade begins, Salt Lake City is a prime contender to host the Winter Games in 2030 or 2034.