Utah basketball heads to Colorado where coaches/friends will face off

Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak shouts to his team in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game against Weber State Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The relationship between Larry Krystkowiak and Tad Boyle doesn’t go back that long.

The head coaches at Utah and Colorado, respectively, Krystkowiak and Boyle didn’t grow up together. They didn’t go to college together, they’ve never been on the same coaching staff. Only in the last decade, as their programs entered and tried to find their way in the Pac-12, has a friendship blossomed.

Utah and Colorado are Pac-12 travel partners, playing the same opponents in any given three or four-day stretch. That fact alone gives Krystkowiak and Boyle reason to talk regularly. They’ve been in a lot of Pac-12 coaches meetings together, and with both schools in the mountain time zone, it stands to reason they’re going to wind up recruiting some of the same kids. At a minimum, they’re going to end up at some of the same recruiting events during live periods.

“I think any friendship in this profession, it starts with mutual respect for the programs,” Boyle told The Salt Lake Tribune via phone earlier this week. “I remember when Larry came into the league, Utah was not where it is now. He always handled himself very graciously when we were fortunate enough to win. I just have great respect for him and his program, and I’d like to think he has the same for me and my program.”

Said Krystkowiak: “I think we’re recruiting some of the same kids, and I’d like to think that we run our programs in similar fashions. We obviously play a team before they do and vice versa, so I think there’s tidbits there, but he’s a genuinely great guy and I enjoy spending time with him.”

Colorado coach Tad Boyle motions to his players during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Oregon State in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 men's tournament Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

The connection from both coaches’ past, an obvious early talking point between the two, is the Big Sky Conference. Krystkowiak still holds school records at the University of Montana for career points (2,017) and rebounds (1,105), while being named Big Sky Player of the Year three times from 1984-86.

Boyle was the head coach at Northern Colorado from 2006-10, a stretch that came just after Krystkowiak’s two-year head-coaching stint at his alma mater from 2004-06.

“We certainly never crossed paths,” Boyle said. “Larry had just left Montana, but yeah, we certainly have a Big Sky connection. He’s just a salt-of-the-earth guy and what you see is what you get, no BS whatsoever.

“I kind’ve felt a connection to him in that way, and I don’t think he knows that. Larry’s got a good sense of humor, which I appreciate, but I just like the no BS way of doing things.”

With Utah headed to the CU Events Center on Sunday afternoon to face Colorado (4 p.m., ESPNU), the Utes and Buffs are not travel partners this weekend. They are rivals, and the friendship between Krystkowiak and Boyle has been on hold for a few days.

That latter factor is of course to be expected. Colorado, with veteran moxie at the top of its rotation, looks capable of making noise at the top of the Pac-12. Utah, despite its extreme youth, has shown itself capable of putting itself in the bubble mix as January moves into February.

Both teams have a lot to play for, so no, Krystkowiak hasn’t checked in with Boyle much lately.

“We’re not talking much this week,” Krystkowiak said, cracking a wry smile in the process. “No.”


At CU Events Center, Boulder, Colo.

Tipoff: Sunday, 4 p.m.


Radio: ESPN 700AM

Series history: Utah leads, 17-13

Last meeting: Colorado, 71-63 (2019)

About the Utes: Utah has won five of seven dating back to a Dec. 4 win over BYU, but is coming off a 69-64 loss to then-No. 4 Oregon at the Huntsman Center … Timmy Allen continues to lead the Pac-12 in scoring at 21.1 points per game. The sophomore guard had 19 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes against the Ducks … Utah is 3-5 at Colorado since the schools entered the Pac-12 together in 2011. The Utes are 10-7 against the Buffaloes over as Pac-12 foes, which includes a loss in the Pac-12 Tournament … The Utes are one of eight Pac-12 teams to split their first two conference games this month, having beaten Oregon State and lost to Oregon.

About the Buffaloes: Expected to challenge in the top quarter of the Pac-12 this winter, Colorado split its first two league games in Boulder, beating then-No. 4 Oregon, then coughing up a second-half lead in falling to Oregon State … McKinley Wright leads the 12-3 Buffs in scoring (13.4 PPG) and assists (4.9 APG). The junior point guard was named Pac-12 Player of the Week last week after averaging 17.5 points, nine assists, and six rebounds in Colorado’s split against the Oregon schools … Wright is one of four starters returning for Colorado, which went 23-13 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT in 2019 … Tyler Bey, Colorado’s leading rebounder at 9.6 points per game, had a team-high 20 points and eight rebounds in the loss to Oregon State.