"Every end is a new beginning"
Saturday marks the end of what history will call the worst home season in the last 38 years of University of Utah men's basketball. It will mark the first losing season at home since 1972-73. Those of us close to the program knew wins would be thin this season, but that doesn't make a 5-9 record at the Huntsman Center any easier to swallow for Ute fans.
Call this a "lost season" in many ways, with the player departures from the program last spring and the late start Larry Krystkowiak and his staff got on bringing players in for this season.
Next season in many ways will be when the rebuilding process begins for Utah basketball. Three veteran players sitting out this season will be key components on the floor: David Foster, Glen Dean and Aaron Dotson. Add to that a five-man recruiting class with more talent, plus what is certain to be a number of recruits signing on this spring, too.
The good news is that even with very few wins to show for the season, the impact of the coaching staff is apparent if you look closely. Utah continues to play very hard and give outstanding effort, despite being outmanned in nearly every Pac-12 game. That's a credit to the kids and the coaching staff, if the message from the staff wasn't getting through you wouldn't see the effort from the players on game days.
When I talk to opposing players and coaches, they all rave about the effort that Utah gives and the improvement they've seen from the early parts of the season till now.
There has been a small, but vocal minority of Utah fans who have been extremely critical of the coaching staff this season. I completely understand the frustration with the losing, but it was going to be a no-win situation for whoever took over for the last staff.
I spoke with Ute great Josh Grant on my radio show this week about this very topic. Grant, who is honest and straightforward about the program, good or bad, said that Krystkowiak and his staff have done an admirable job with the hand they were dealt. But Grant does expect better results with more talent in the program next year.
Bottom line, Saturday night will be the final time for Ute fans to get a home look at this season's squad. While the season may be a forgettable one for many, let's look at this end as a beginning of bigger and better things with Utah basketball. The next time you see the Utes at the Huntsman Center, expect to see a better brand of basketball.
Bill Riley can be heard as the voice of the University of Utah on gamedays and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill Riley Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.