View from the Booth: Runnin' Utes starting to get a competitive drive

Published: Thursday, Jan. 12 2012 9:14 p.m. MST

First-year coach Larry Krystkowiak instructs his team during Utah basketball practice at the Huntsman Center at the University of Utah on Friday, October 13, 2011.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — It's been a while since I've written anything about Utah men's basketball in this space. When football is in season it dominates the landscape and frankly there hasn't been a lot to write about regarding the Utah hoops program.

There still isn't a ton of positive news to report on the Utah basketball team, but if you follow the program closely, glimmers of hope and progress are beginning to appear.

This isn't going to be a memorable season in the annals of Ute basketball. This is a transition season, a rebuilding season if you will. Clearly this isn't a season where you will chart the progress of the team with wins or losses. Progress will be judged by things less easy to see, things such as effort and energy.

I am often asked by Ute fans what I think of Larry Krystkowiak and his staff. Is he the right guy for the job? Will he be able to turn things around? How soon till order is restored at the Huntsman Center?

There are no clear-cut answers to any of these questions, but being around the program as I have thus far this season, I like what I've seen from Krystkowiak and his staff.

There are few, if any, nights in Pac-12 play where the Utes will be the most talented team on the floor. They will have to give a maximum effort just to be able to compete in most of their games against Pac-12 competition. That is where the program is right now, the foundation that Krystkowiak is pouring on the hill.

Changing the work habits of a team that had little to no Div. I basketball experience is far from an easy task, but that has been the biggest challenge facing the Utes this season. It's nearly impossible to implement a new philosophy or system if your team can't play hard on each possession.

That is where Utah has been, now they appear to be turning that corner and the basketball part of things is becoming more apparent to the players and fans who have followed the team this year.

Progress is coming, maybe not as quickly as many Ute fans hoped for, but it's coming. The foundation is being set this season and more talent will be added to the program next season, with a good recruiting class already set.

Rebuilding a proud and storied program like Utah is never an easy thing. There are no easy or quick fixes. Patience, hard work and time are the remedies for what has ailed Utah basketball.

From where I sit they appear to be headed the right way.

Bill Riley can be heard as the 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.

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