Utah basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak hits recruiting trail after signing new contract

Published: Saturday, April 26 2014 6:50 p.m. MDT

Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak was rewarded with a new deal after leading the Utes to their first winning season since 2008-09.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak called it “kind of yesterday’s news.” A day after signing a new five-year contract (worth $1.4 million annually with a pair of $375,000 retention bonuses), he was headed to California for a recruiting trip.

Although Krystkowiak acknowledged it sounds corny, he’s moving on — noting that he planned to be in a gymnasium watching basketball all Friday evening.

“It’s terrific and I feel blessed and fortunate to have the chance that I have to continue working,” Krystkowiak said. “It was something that I signed (Thursday) with (athletics director) Chris (Hill) and I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel.”

Krystkowiak was rewarded with a new deal after leading the Utes to their first winning season since 2008-09. They went 21-12 and participated in the NIT. In three years at the helm of the program, Krystkowiak is 42-55 overall.

Utah won nine Pac-12 games last season. The Utes won eight over their first two years in the conference.

The success, though, is something Krystkowiak insists is a team thing. He credits his assistants and players for their commitment.

“It’s not about me. It’s about our program and I think there’s so many positive things happening from our perspective right now,” Krystkowiak said. “As I said (Thursday), I truly believe it’s one of the best college jobs in America and I’m just fired up about it. There’s some momentum.”

The Utes, he added, may be moving into a little different category from now on — going from a lack of expectations to getting the best punch from opponents.

“We’re going to have to be ready to answer the bell from here because we’re not going to be sneaking up on anybody,” Krystkowiak said.

ABOUT THE JAZZ: When asked about speculation and any potential interest concerning the Utah Jazz coaching vacancy, Krystkowiak declined to comment. Krystkowiak played for the Jazz in 1992-93 and was head coach of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks over 100 games from 2007-08.

Krystkowiak later told ESPN 700 that he preferred coaching at the collegiate level.

“I truly believe this is where it’s at,” he said. “And this makes an awful lot of sense for me and my family.”

NEWEST UTE: Krystkowiak offered some additional insight on Jakob Poeltl, the 7-footer from Austria, who will join the Utes next season. The 18-year-old chose Utah after also making recruiting visits to Arizona and California.

“It was a long process for everybody and they were going to make sure in their mind that they didn’t make any mistakes,” Krystkowiak said. “They had a lot of different opportunities and we tried to do our due diligence and they did the same. We feel real fortunate to have him in our program — as we do the other freshmen.”

While noting that it’s impossible to predict exactly how things will go, Krystkowiak noted that Poeltl has been playing in a men’s league for the past year and is a little bit further along in terms of playing a physical style of basketball.

“We wouldn’t have tried so dang hard to get him and make multiple trips over there and do everything we could to get him if we didn’t think he had a great opportunity here with our program,” Krystkowiak said.

NONCONFERENCE SLATE: As reported earlier this month, Utah will face national power Wichita State in the Huntsman Center on Dec. 3.

“Obviously it’s a marquee game for our fans and our fan base and it’ll give people an opportunity to come out and watch a really good basketball game,” said Krystkowiak, who added that the Shockers have a heck of a team and will be an incredible challenge for the Utes.

So, too, will be a Dec. 13 date against Kansas at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

“It’s a long ways away but it’s something that we’ve kind of talked about for a few years — when we felt like our team was ready for some of those challenges — this is it,” Krystkowiak said. “Between (Wichita State) and Kansas it’s probably two top 10 teams, for sure. Two top 10 teams in the mix, not to mention our league. So we’re going to have our hands full.”

Krystkowiak expects Utah’s complete nonconference schedule to be released by mid-May, noting that there’s just one hole to fill at this time.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer

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