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Utah Utes basketball: Connor glad to be back on board at the U.

Published: Friday, April 8 2011 1:56 p.m. MDT

Larry Krystkowiak, above, has hired ex-Ute Tommy Connor as an assistant. the new University of Utah Men's Head Basketball Coach at a press conference in the Huntsman Center. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Larry Krystkowiak and Tommy Connor hadn't even met until earlier this week, but now they'll be working closely together to try to bring University of Utah basketball back to the status it enjoyed when Connor was a player and coach at the U.

Connor, who has worked for the past 12 years as the head coach at Westminster College in Salt Lake, was named as Krystkowiak's first assistant coaching hire Friday. Connor played for Utah from 1985-90 and was a graduate assistant for three years and four years as an assistant under Rick Majerus in the 1990s.

"I was offered a great opportunity and I'm very grateful Coach K gave me a chance to come back on staff and get back to Utah," Connor said. "I've been gone a long time and it feels great to be back. I'm very fortunate to be in this position and I'm excited about the challenge."

Connor spent an hour working out with the team in the HPER-109 gym Friday and said things haven't changed much.

"The floor's still awful in there, very slippery, same old," he said with a smile.

Krystkowiak said although he just met Connor a few days ago, he was aware of his reputation as a coach in the intermountain area.

"I chose Tommy because he's had tremendous success at Westminster and I've had a lot of respect for him and how his teams have done and played basketball," Krystkowiak said. "He's respected very highly here in the state of Utah and is a great family man and basketball coach."

Krystkowiak added, "He played basketball for the University of Utah and coached for the University of Utah. When I sat down and had an opportunity to visit with him, I realized he's the closest person to me in terms of passion and energy to get this thing rolling again."

Connor, who won at least 20 games in 10 of the 12 years he coached at Westminster, with several conference titles, said it was difficult to leave.

"It's tough because I built that team from scratch 12 years ago," he said. "So I'm not just leaving a team, I'm leaving a program that I started. But I'm glad to be back at my alma mater and am looking forward to it."

Krystkowiak said he's getting to know the Ute team through the limited time he has under NCAA rules to work with the team this time of year.

"We've got a good group of guys and a pretty good group of players, although we haven't had a great chance to evaluate a lot of that," he said. "But a lot of guys are working hard and taking care of business."

Krystkowiak said he hoped to have a staff in place next week. One of the coaches he has been talking to is one of his former assistants at Montana, Andy Hill, who has been an assistant for seven years at Montana.

"There are some really solid candidates involved and I'd like to wrap it up early in the week," he said.

EMAIL: Sor@desnews.com

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