Utah Utes basketball: Larry Krystkowiak bringing 'we' philosophy to Utah

Ute coach says he'll pour his 'heart and soul' into program

Published: Monday, April 4 2011 11:00 p.m. MDT

Larry Krystkowiak

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Larry Krystkowiak was formally introduced as Utah's new basketball coach on Monday and the 46-year-old made his intentions quite clear.

He's determined to restore pride in a program coming off back-to-back losing seasons and a challenging future in the Pacific-12 Conference.

"I'm going to absolutely pour my heart and soul into this program," said Krystkowiak (pronounced krist-KOH-vee-ak). "We're going to get the basketball program back to a position where we can all be very proud."

Krystkowiak, who replaces the fired Jim Boylen, signed a five-year contract worth $950,000 annually to turn things around. The Utes reached the NCAA championship game in 1998 but have had just two winning seasons over the past six years.

"We've got a great, extraordinary tradition here and we are delighted to welcome our new coach who is going to further advance that tradition," said university president Michael K. Young.

It's a challenge Krystkowiak is eager to tackle. He couldn't wait for the press conference to end and get a chance to meet with the players for the first time.

"For us, it's about the present," Krystkowiak said. "I know the expectations that come with it. I'm not afraid of them, and we're going to hold ourselves to a pretty high standard."

Krystkowiak, who spent the past season as an assistant with the NBA's New Jersey Nets, wound up getting the job after a search that lasted for more than three weeks.

Utah athletics director Chris Hill downplayed the significance of everything but the outcome.

"It's the result," he said. "I'm happy with the result, so that makes life good."

The important thing, he added, is having a team that plays smart, plays hard and wins games.

"Our fans can identify with that," Hill said.

Krystkowiak knows it.

"It's going to take a lot of different facets. There aren't going to be any little things or any shortcuts," he said. "But at the end of the day, fans want to come and watch winning basketball, hard-nosed basketball."

It's an approach Hill appreciates. Krystkowiak's leadership, toughness and intelligence were among the traits that led to his hiring. Hill noted that he was impressed in a lot of ways.

As such, he's confident the Utes have the right man to lead them into the Pac-12 next season.

"We'll have a competition level at the highest we've ever had," Hill said. "I couldn't think of anybody better that would bring with us that toughness, the discipline to make us be successful."

Famed alum Arnie Ferrin, who led Utah to its only NCAA title in 1944, said Hill must have searched carefully and interviewed a lot of people to find a coach capable of facing the challenges ahead.

"I think this is a great opportunity for a coach moving where they are into the Pac-12 and taking a position that we have to grow into," he said after attending the press conference.

Restoring a winning tradition, Ferrin continued, will play a big role in Utah's recruiting success.

And that, Hill said, will begin at home where the Utes want to capture Utah again. They've slipped in recent years.

"We want to make sure we get the best in the state and recruit from beyond," Hill said.

Krystkowiak is confident the Utes will make a successful transition into the Pac-12.

"I've got all the faith in the world that we can compete regionally, that we can compete nationally — definitely," he said.

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