Tom Smart, Deseret News
The worst season in Utah basketball history is now in the rearview mirror.
Much like a year ago at this time there are major changes on the Utah roster. But what's different than a year ago is the way that things are being handled. Larry Krystkowiak and his staff stepped into an extremely difficult situation a year ago with a roster full of players that weren't theirs and uncertainty about who they were and what needed to be done.
Following his first full season on the job, Krystkowiak and his staff have a much clearer vision of who they are and what needs to be done to get there.
When this current staff arrived on the job less than a year ago, they needed badly to fill out a roster depleted by departures and graduations. So what they had to do was grab whatever available bodies were out there in May and June. Many of these kids were not ready or able to play at the Pac-12 level, as we saw throughout the 2011-12 season — which brings us to this April and the departures of Anthony Odunsi, Kareem Storey, Javon Dawson, Dijon Farr, George Matthews and Chris Hines. Many who follow Utah basketball have said it's the same thing all over again this season, and worry that Utah is caught up in some sort of vicious cycle or revolving door of player departures. The numbers are well documented, 19 players in three seasons have left the program, but this latest batch of exits has a different feel.
I spoke with Krystkowiak for an hour on my radio show on Wednesday and he told me that all six players leaving the program this spring are leaving on good terms and by their own wishes. Krystkowiak told me that he and the staff are working with each player individually to find them a place to play and finish their educations moving forward.
He feels confident that all six will have new schools to continue their playing careers next fall. One other thing he told me that I found very interesting is that all the players that are departing are still working out, playing games and coming by the offices at the Huntsman Center daily.
Some of you will shake your heads and say it's much of the same thing all over again, and that I'm just some sort of an apologist for the staff. But the bottom line is that this past season was simply a bridge season to get to a place where more talent could enter the program.
The talent that was here simply couldn't compete at a Pac-12 level. The players remaining from last season, the two transfers who sat out last season, and the incoming recruiting class should be better equipped to handle the competition and rigors of a Pac-12 schedule next season.
The Utes aren't done recruiting just yet. They've got their eyes on at least two and possibly more potential players to add still this spring. Givon Crump, a JC wing scorer and Renan Lenz, a JC power forward from Brazil are among the targets. Utah should know where they stand with these two players within the next two weeks.
One thing is for certain and Krystkowiak knows this: The revolving door must stop spinning now. From a consistency and image standpoint, the program turnover has to come to an end. Step one in any rebuilding project is getting talent into the program. It appears that Utah is on its way to completing that step. Now, molding and developing that talent with your style and philosophies is the next step. I'm intrigued to see how much better year two of the Krystkowiak Era can be.
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.
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