When University of Utah head basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak was hired in 2011 many people assumed it was because athletic director Chris Hill wanted him to coach college basketball.
In reality, however, Krystkowiak was carried to the Wasatch Front by the winds of destiny for a much larger purpose: to undo the curse of the Utah Jazz and lead them to an NBA title.
Indeed, fate has knighted Krystkowiak as “The One” who can break Utah’s curse. To accomplish this, however, Krystkowiak must become head coach of the Jazz in 2014.
If he does, fate will see that Utah wins an NBA championship. If he doesn’t, the Jazz and their fans will never stand atop the NBA mountain after having been cursed more than two decades years ago.
The events that led to the curse took place in 1991 when a player from Providence College broke the all-time record for most steals in a college career. The player with the lightning-quick hands was a point guard named Eric Murdock. On June 26, 1991, the Jazz selected Murdock in the first round (No. 21 overall) of the NBA Draft.
Little did Krystkowiak know that this draft pick would greatly impact his destiny.
The night of the draft a 9-year-old boy, just a few miles down the road from the Delta Center (now EnergySolutions Arena), heard that the Jazz had drafted this player with the steals record. In the boy’s mind, owning such a record was incredible and therefore by way of stealing basketballs, the point guard from Providence began to steal the boy’s heart.
The bond between player and young fan was cemented forever when the boy used his allowance money to purchase a Murdock rookie card and discovered on the back that — marvelously — they shared the same birthday.
Seeing this, the boy felt happiness, the likes of which he had scarcely known in his nine years on earth. That day, the boy found true sports love. Murdock was his Princess Buttercup, and he would gladly have braved a fire swamp, stormed a castle or fought a six-fingered man for him.
While Krystkowiak averaged nine points and five rebounds per game for the Milwaukee Bucks in ’91-’92, Murdock averaged just under 10 minutes per game his rookie season with Utah playing behind future NBA Hall of Famer John Stockton.
While Murdock didn’t play a whole lot, each minute he did play was — for the boy — special. The boy figured it was only a matter of time before the Jazz would see Murdock for what he was: the best.
Tragically, instead, on June 24, 1992, nearly a year after the Jazz drafted him Murdock was traded. After discovering this while watching the evening news that night, the devastated boy walked out the front door of his house, sat down under the big birch tree in his front yard and cried.
His heartache was so poignant and his anguish so real that as his tears hit the earth, the ground of the Wasatch Front was cursed forever against the Jazz. From that point forward, fate decided, Utah would never win an NBA championship no matter how many Hall of Fame players it had, how many tractors its coach owned or how well the people paid their tithing.
As with most curses, however, fate allowed a single way whereby the curse might be broken; one hero who might defy all odds and set things right. That way, that hero, was and is Larry Krystkowiak.
See, the Jazz’s trade not only affected Eric Murdock and the young boy. There were three other players involved. Going with Murdock to Milwaukee was Blue Edwards and coming to Utah were Jay Humphries and, yes, Krystkowiak.
This is why Larry was chosen as "The One" that could break the curse, and fate declared that to do so, he would need to return to Utah in the future to accomplish some great feat upon the cursed ground.
That feat is to become head coach of the Utah Jazz and build up a championship culture, championship toughness, championship character and a championship roster.
Then, fate will free the land and allow Krystko to lead the Jazz to the promised land.
If you find it hard to believe in curses, consider this about the No. 14:
Krystkowiak retired from the NBA in 1997, 14 years before he was hired at Utah.
Guess what Eric Murdock’s jersey number was with the Utah Jazz? Wait for it ... No. 14.
The birthday shared by Murdock and the boy whose tears begat the curse was June
The boy shed 14 tears under the birch tree the day his true sports love was traded.
The boy was 14 years old before he forgave the Jazz and cheered for them again.
The year right now is 20
Doubt the curse at your own risk, if you will, but you can’t doubt this: In light of the curse the Jazz’s present coaching situation actually makes sense.
It turns out the head coaching job in Utah was never Corbin’s to lose after all. And even if it had been, Corbin has accomplished nothing to warrant increased faith in him to lead the Jazz to an NBA championship.
The good news for the Jazz is that Krystko is just down the road, on “The Hill,” being unknowingly prepared to fulfill his true destiny beginning this offseason.
In the movie "The Sandlot," Benny had a dream in which "the Sultan of Swat," Babe Ruth, told him that in life “everybody gets one chance to do something great.” For Benny, this was to hop the fence and steal a baseball signed by The Babe from the Herculean dog known as "The Beast."
For Krystko, his fence, baseball and beast are just a few weeks away.
The Jazz franchise has some decent pieces in place with a potential starting five of nothing but young lottery picks. This season, frankly, they were ineffective. As the core of the team they found few wins and few positives in a season largely wasted.
The new players the Jazz end up with on the roster after the upcoming NBA Draft, whether through trades or draft selections, will determine whether this season for the Jazz was merely a failure or a horrible failure.
On the court the Jazz accomplished close to nothing this season. If anything they lost confidence in themselves. Their defense, as a whole, was nothing short of unprofessional and disappointing. Defense, remember, was what Jazz management promised would become the foundation of this team this season, even if and when they struggled.
Grade on establishing a defensive identity and culture this season: F.
But this is where Krystkowiak comes in and makes things right with the effort, strategy, culture, roster and with the stars of fate and destiny on his side.
In the upcoming draft, Krystko should enjoy not only a top five pick, but also an additional first-round pick from Golden State.
By combination of playoff seeding, trading and fate, the Jazz will end up with pick No.
Sometime later, that player selected by Krystko with pick No. 14 will make the winning shot in the clinching victory of the NBA Finals, and the Utah Jazz and its long-suffering fans will finally experience a view from the mountain top.
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At 6:14 the following morning, I will pull out my old Murdock rookie card, return to lie underneath the birch tree in my old front yard with my dog, Murdock; And if the new homeowners don’t call the police first, I will shed 14 more tears — this time in happiness.
It’s all riding on Krystko.
Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free throw line and can be reached at: email@example.com or @nategagon.