So the search for a new head basketball coach at the University of Utah continues some 2½ weeks after Jim Boylen was fired from that position. I wrote in this space just after it happened about possible criteria that would make the new coach a potential success for the Utes.
I got a ton of feedback from listeners and readers on that column and subsequent discussions on my radio show. Many agreed and many others disagreed with my assessment of what Dr. Chris Hill needs to look for in his next men's hoops coach.
But the one thing I keep getting over and over again from Utah basketball fans and people that follow the program is that Utah needs someone who will "excite and energize the fanbase" to bring fans back to the Huntsman Center. To be very honest with you, I couldn't disagree more!
Nobody was more energized and excited about Utah basketball than Jim Boylen. When he got the job four years ago, he spent countless hours going out and speaking to supporter groups, fraternities and sororities. He did all the appearances that anyone asked him to do, and what was the result? Attendance continued to decline and the buzz around Utah hoops did the same. This is because the product on the floor for most of his tenure didn't live up to the long-standing tradition of what Ute fans have come to expect from their men's basketball team.
Winning is the tonic that will cure what is ailing Utah basketball fans and their sagging attendance at games. Going to the NCAA Tournament one season and missing for the next two isn't what I'm talking about, either. So many people have pointed to the Sweet 16 run of Ray Giacoletti and Jim Boylen's MWC title and NCAA berth in his second season, but what was missing was the follow-up success.
Look around — this isn't just a Utah issue, either. Attendance at BYU was down at the end of the Steve Cleveland era and in the beginning of the Dave Rose era, but as BYU began to have sustained success, fans once again began to fill the Marriott Center.
So the search for the next-in-line at Utah continues, and we all continue to investigate and speculate on who the next bench boss at the Huntsman Center might be and what they should be. Keep in mind that winning over the fans and impressing at the press conference is great, but winning on the court is ultimately what will bring fans back to the Huntsman Center and "energize the fan base."
Speaking of the Utes' coaching search, the one name that continues to emerge the more people I speak to is former Montana Grizzlies head coach and current New Jersey Nets assistant Larry Krystkowiak. On Monday, I spoke to people with knowledge of the search, and I was informed that Krystkowiak had interviewed with Dr. Hill and that he felt he was a leading candidate for the Utah job. Former Alabama head coach and current ESPN analyst Mark Gottfried is also a name that continues to be mentioned in conjunction with the Utah opening.
Bill Riley can be heard as the radio voice of the University of Utah on game days and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.