Utes junior guard Parker Van Dyke was shaken by the text message he received as he and teammates were looking forward to taking on Pac-12 Conference rival Colorado on Friday.
Van Dyke’s mother let him know via text the heart-wrenching news that soon flooded social media streams. Jon Huntsman Sr., one of Utah’s best-known businessmen and philanthropists, a major donor to the university as well as a friend and mentor to members of the basketball program, died at the age of 80.
“That’s tough news for us, for the state of Utah, for the program — specifically Utah basketball,” Van Dyke, a Salt Lake City resident, said after Friday night’s loss to Colorado in Boulder, Colo. “His name is all over our program, the influence he has had. He’s been a great friend of all of us. We were able to go to his house before the season started. He’s just a great man. He’s left a great influence upon us and the program.”
The Utes (13-9, 5-6) played with heavy hearts in Boulder. Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak, who had become close to Huntsman during his seven years at the helm of the men’s basketball program, couldn’t say for sure how much the somber news impacted his players. However, Krystkowiak described his team as having been out of sorts Friday night.
The Utes will return to the arena named after Huntsman, the same venue which will serve as the venue for his funeral service, for two games next week and five of their final seven to finish the regular season.
“It definitely affected me,” Utes senior forward and American Fork resident Tyler Rawson said. “Jon was a great guy and definitely a great mentor for me and everyone on the team or in the program. I was deeply saddened. He was definitely in our hearts today. We know we’ll be playing the rest of the season for him.”
The Utes will host Stanford and California next week in their only meeting with the San Francisco Bay Area schools. Perhaps the time off — the Utes won’t play again until Thursday — will be beneficial on and off the court following Friday night’s poor performance.
Fifty-five points marked a season low for the Utes, and 35 percent shooting marked the second-worst shooting night of the season.
The Utes, a team that had four players scoring an average of 10 points or more per game, didn’t have a player in double figures. Four of the five starters finished the game with multiple turnovers.
“Offensively, we took a step back and got a little bit out of sync,” Krystkowiak said. “... I thought we took some good shots, but we could’ve got great shots. The mentality, the M.O. of our team is having a little less of a selfish mindset. You know, going and seeking a great shot, finding a teammate and knocking [it down].”