Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — Utah played its final basketball game as a member of the Mountain West Conference on Thursday night, as the Utes fell to No. 6-ranked San Diego State, 64-50, in the quarterfinals of the league tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Question is, did Jim Boylen coach his final game for the Utes?
Speculation has been mounting for months about the future of Utah's embattled coach.
Athletic director Chris Hill has said he evaluates every coaching staff in his department on a yearly basis once the season is over. It's over now, with the Utes finishing with a 13-18 record.
"I haven't worried about my job status at all," Boylen said after the loss.
Boylen's career record in four seasons at Utah is a lackluster 69-60, and the Utes under Boylen are 32-32 in regular-season MWC games.
Boylen led Utah to winning seasons in his first two years at the helm, including a 24-10 mark, a share of the regular-season MWC title, and an MWC Tournament crown in 2008-09.
But that's been followed by back-to-back losing campaigns.
Yet when asked about his future, Boylen was upbeat, answering the question as if he fully expects to return for a fifth year as the Utes leave the MWC and join the Pac-12.
"I'm very thankful to be the head coach here. I was hired here to build this program. We won a championship in our second year with four seniors. We are in a rebuilding process. We are in a process where we have our whole team coming back," he said, referring to the nine underclassmen on the roster.
"It's an exciting time for me. I was given a five-year (contract) extension (after the 2009 season) because we knew we had to rebuild this thing. We knew it's going to take some time to get this back where it needs to be. This group of guys, if we were still in the Mountain West next year, would be picked 1, 2 or 3 to win the league, no doubt in my mind. This team has got the pieces. We got the guys returning. We've gained some experience. It's a very good group of guys."
Ute players say they support their coach.
"As a team, we want coach back. I want coach back," said sophomore center Jason Washburn. "No one loves being at Utah as much as coach Boylen. We have a talented group of players who will be back next year."
"I committed (to Utah) for one reason — coach Boylen," said freshman J.J. O'Brien. "I know he has some naysayers, but I hope things stay the same. We've got everybody coming back next year, and we're going to get better."
Boylen added he's "encouraged" and that he likes his players.
"They've been very supportive of me, and I've been very supportive of them. I haven't worried about my job status at all. I've been brought here to coach and teach, and I've never stopped doing that, and I won't. I'm very thankful to be here."
Ray Giacoletti, Boylen's predecessor, posted a 54-40 record in three seasons from 2004-2007. He resigned before the end of the 2006-07 campaign.
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