Larry Krystkowiak-Mark Madsen friendship has endured as Utah, Utah Valley hoops set to meet

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Valley University basketball coach, Mark Madsen, Monday, July 1, 2019. Mark Madsen chose to trade in life with the L. A. Lakers for life as Utah Valley University's mens basketball head coach.

One afternoon in the middle of 1998, not long after helping lead Stanford to the Final Four as a sophomore, Mark Madsen happened to be at Maples Pavilion at the same time as Larry Krystkowiak.

Krystkowiak, at the tail end of his professional career at that point, was in Palo Alto to visit Cardinal coach Mike Montgomery, who was Krystkowiak’s coach 15 years earlier at the University of Montana.

This was Madsen’s introduction to Krystkowiak, they just happened to share the same college coach. Krystkowiak embarked on a coaching career, which included a couple of years with the Milwaukee Bucks. Madsen was able to grind out nine NBA seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, so their paths crossed a handful of times.

Krystkowiak settled in at the University of Utah as its head coach in 2011; Madsen joined the Lakers as an assistant in 2013. When Madsen was named the head coach Utah Valley University in April 2019, you can guess who one of the first congratulatory calls came from.

“I’ve known him, I’ve admired him from afar and now we’re in the same state, same recruiting pools, and yeah, one of the commonalities is Mike Montgomery,” Madsen told The Salt Lake Tribune via phone. “Mike is a straight shooter, a high-ethics guy, and Larry is absolutely those things as well.”

Add Krystkowiak: “I love Mark. He’s a great human being. He’s what you’d call a day-maker, he doesn’t have too many bad days. We both played for the same college coach and we’ve shared plenty of those stories. I’m super-happy for him. He maximized his career. He had a great college career at Stanford and then a nice little NBA run. He’s a quality coach and a quality person.”

Utah will play host to Utah Valley Tuesday evening at the Huntsman Center (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks), a matchup that was easy to predict given the relationship between the coaches, but maybe not as easy to predict given COVID-19 has turned college basketball scheduling into the Wild West.

On Jan. 24, Utah announced it would open the 2020-21 season on Nov. 10 against the Wolverines, who were due $80,000 for the 45-minute trip from Orem to Salt Lake City. Once the pandemic hit, the Utes worked in good faith to reschedule that one-off “guarantee game,” plus others against Cal Poly, Cal State Fullerton, Fresno State and Rice.

As the Utes sought to revamp their nonconference schedule, the matchup with Utah Valley persevered. Instead of $80,000 for a Nov. 10 matchup, a new contract agreed to on Oct. 19 and signed by both parties on Oct. 27 has UVU getting $40,000 for Tuesday’s affair.

“When COVID hit, no one knew what would happen with their schedules, there were a lot of question marks,” Madsen said. “Utah was gracious in trying to prioritize an in-state game against us. We like to play in-state teams, it’s a great game for us, and the Huntsman Center has great tradition. It will be a good experience for us.”

Utah (2-1) is coming off an 82-64 loss Saturday at BYU, which was largely one-sided. Alfonso Plummer scored a game-high 19 points, but needed 15 shot attempts to get there as the Utes shot just 36.4% from the floor and 32.1% from 3-point range. Beyond Tuesday, the Utes will host the University of Idaho on Friday, then dive back into Pac-12 play with a Dec. 22 trip to Tempe to take on league title contender Arizona State.