Does Utah’s next basketball assistant need to be a ‘Utah guy’?

Also in the TribUte newsletter: A few thoughts on the Utes and the NFL draft

December 21, 2021, Salt Lake City, UT: The University of Utah Utes Men’s Basketball team takes on the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Tuesday, December 21, 2021. (Photo by Nick Grace/University of Utah)

I was texting back and forth with an assistant coach earlier this week. Someone previously on a Pac-12 staff, but who has since taken a job outside the region.

It didn’t take long for the conversation to reach the University of Utah. More specifically, what the Utes should do with the assistant spot left vacant by Eric Peterson, who left last week to become the head coach at the University of South Dakota.

Some names got thrown around. One of them was the name you’re all fixated on, a couple of others made some sense, still more admittedly made very little sense. At one point, this assistant lobbed the following notion, which I’ve been thinking about for days.

Whoever Craig Smith hires, he needs to be a “Utah guy.” To clarify that, not necessarily a former Ute, although that would be viewed as a plus depending on which former Ute, but a coach with a strong connection to the state.

That felt like some pretty blah thinking at the time. This state doesn’t exactly provide a strong recruiting base. No, Wasatch Academy, maybe Real Salt Lake Basketball Academy, and the occasional high-major kid from a public school do not qualify as a recruiting base, so if you’re not looking to hammer the state’s prep scene annually, what is a “Utah guy” doing for you in that assistant spot?

I’ve thought some more about this, and while I don’t think you should pigeonhole yourself as just looking at a “Utah guy,” hiring the right “Utah guy” does a few things. For one, it gives you a jolt of renewed credibility. Credibility within the state’s high school/AAU scene, credibility within the fan base, which, again, appears fixated on one particular “Utah guy” at the moment.

The right “Utah guy,” or at least the one everyone is talking about, would be a seasoned teacher, even potentially a former Ute with an intimate knowledge of the program, possessing the ability to effectively recruit the region and, yes, the state when a particular recruit piques the staff’s interest.

You people know where I’m going with this, right?

No, I don’t mean Alex Jensen or Johnnie Bryant.

Other things on my mind

• In polling a handful of scouts/agents after Utah Pro Day, there is not a consensus as to which Ute is drafted after Devin Lloyd goes in the first round. However, there is a consensus that the second Ute will go on day three, which will be rounds 4-7 on April 30. My best semi-educated guess right now is Nephi Sewell, maybe as high as the fifth round.

• I understand everything working against Britain Covey as the NFL Draft approaches, but his resume is loud enough, and his pro day was productive enough that I imagine someone brings him to rookie mini-camp as an undrafted free agent. Talking to Covey on Thursday, he is at least very clear on what his future would entail. He is a return specialist before he is a slot receiver, but he would like a shot at both.

• Utah needs an upgrade at point guard. Cincinnati transfer Mike Saunders, a Wasatch Academy kid who is now involved with the Utes via the NCAA Transfer Portal, would be an upgrade at point guard.