Larry Krystkowiak played and coached at the University of Montana and loves the school as much as anyone. As Utah's basketball coach, he just thought he could offer Tres Tinkle a bigger forum than the Big Sky Conference.
And then Tinkle’s father became a Pac-12 coach, ruining everything.
Oregon State’s father-son duo will visit the Huntsman Center on Saturday afternoon. Krystkowiak will have a reunion with Wayne Tinkle, his Montana teammate and former assistant with the Grizzlies. And he’ll be reminded how 6-foot-8 OSU forward Tres Tinkle probably would have become a Ute, if not for the opportunity to join his father in the Pac-12 after Wayne Tinkle’s eight-year stint as Krystkowiak’s successor at Montana.
Tinkle ranks in the Pac-12′s top five in scoring (20.2) points and rebounding (8.2) for the Beavers, who join Utah as a part of a four-way tie for third place in the conference at 5-3. The kenpom.com analytics make it about a 50-50 game, giving the Utes their best chance to win in any of their next six contests, as they respond to Thursday’s 78-72 loss to Oregon. To beat the Beavers, they’ll have to stop a player whom Krystkowiak remembers as a grade-schooler and pursued as a Missoula prep star.
“We recruited Tres as hard as we recruited anybody,” Krystkowiak said, “and that was the hope, if [he] wanted to play on a little bit bigger stage.”
As Krystkowiak told the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune last summer, “And then, his dad got the damn Beaver job. We were ready to rock.”
In his news conference this week, Krystkowiak joked about sabotaging Wayne Tinkle's move from Montana to OSU in 2014: “I guess I tried to blow the whole thing up and not get him hired, but it didn't work. Told 'em all kinds of college stories, but they still hired him.”
Tres Tinkle told the Montana newspaper that Krystkowiak was the only coach who kept pursuing him even after his father moved to Oregon State. It was worth a shot — “I love that kid,” Krystkowiak said — and he hopes his own sons will have the opportunity to go through the recruiting process, as they determine their proper level of college basketball.
Brighton High School alumnus Cam Krystkowiak is spending a postgraduate year at a prep school in Massachusetts and has made Ivy League recruiting visits; his brothers Luc and Ben play for Brighton.
In the context of having pursued Tinkle, Krystkowiak said, “I've got my own boys that are playing, and there's a lot of coaches that won't recruit them because they just assume they're coming to Utah. And I don't think that's fair to those kids. They need to enjoy that experience of being recruited.”
Tres Tinkle signed with the Beavers and has thrived, overcoming a broken wrist that cost him most of the 2016-17 season. Tinkle is a junior in eligibility, having redshirted that season as OSU finished 5-27. He made the All-Pac-12 first team last year.
Utah will stage the annual “Huntsman Strong” game Saturday, honoring the late Jon M. Huntsman Sr. and his family exactly a year after the passing of the philanthropist and Ute basketball benefactor. The school is offering two tickets to game with proof of a $25 donation to the Huntsman Cancer Institute,
In addition, Krystkowiak and his wife, Jan, are pledging to match up to $100,000 in donations. Krystkowiak and other members of his program have been affected by cancer and he considers Huntsman a major influence in his life. “Jon's legacy continues to live,” Krystkowiak said. “I'm not one that's great at asking for money, but I know we'd love to be able to write a check to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for two hundred grand.”
To donate, visit https://hope.huntsmancancer.org/diy/UofUBB
Editor’s note: Paul Huntsman, son of Jon M. Huntsman Sr., is owner and publisher of The Salt Lake Tribune.
OREGON STATE AT UTAH
At the Huntsman Center
Tipoff: Saturday, 3 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks.
Radio: ESPN 700.
Records: Oregon State 13-7 (5-3 Pac-12); Utah 11-9 (5-3 Pac-12).
Series history: Utah leads, 18-12.
Last meeting: Utah 66, OSU 64 (2018).
About the Beavers: OSU edged Colorado 76-74 on the road Thursday, as Stephen Thompson Jr. scored 21 points and Tres Tinkle added 19. … Ute coach Larry Krystkowiak labels the Beavers' offense “high-powered” and the kenpom.com analytics rank OSU No. 52 in efficiency. … The Beavers best Oregon 77-72 on the road in early January. … Thompson averages 16.2 points and is joined in OSU’s lineup by his brother, Ethan, who adds 13.6 points.
About the Utes: Utah dropped to No. 259 defensively in kenpom.com after a 76-72 loss to Oregon. The Utes' defensive problems stemmed from their turnovers, especially some bad passes in the backcourt. … Guard Charles Jones Jr., who’s from Portland, Ore., via College of Southern Idaho, has fallen out of the rotation after making progress in mid-January. Jones didn’t play last weekend at Stanford and got five minutes vs. Oregon. He had the ball stolen from him the first time he touched it.