SALT LAKE CITY — Watching Jim Boylen on the bench next to Gregg Popovich the other night in San Antonio against the Jazz made me think of Boylen’s short tenure as Ute coach.
I’ve heard a lot of folks — Ute fans and non-Ute fans alike — pile on Boylen, saying he was a disaster of a coach who couldn’t recruit good players to Utah.
The fact is, Boylen won a conference championship and had an overall winning record in his four years at Utah. And in actuality, he was a pretty good recruiter also.
Just look at all the former Boylen recruits playing college basketball this year and succeeding at various levels.
J.J. O’Brien, who was injured much of his freshman season, transferred to San Diego State, where he has been a two-year starter for the 10th-ranked, 16-1 Aztecs. This year he is third on the team in scoring and second in rebounding.
Marshall Henderson, who started as a freshman for Utah in 2009-10, has been around the block with plenty of off-the-court issues. But on the court he can still fill up the basket. As a senior at Ole Miss he is again leading his team in scoring at 19.2 ppg while shooting 38.3 percent from 3-point range.
Shawn Glover, the skinny forward from Texas who started 22 games in 2010-11, leads Oral Roberts in scoring this year at 20.8 ppg and is second in rebounding at 5.4 rpg
Dominique Lee, who redshirted as a freshman, is now playing for Big Sky-leading Northern Colorado, where he averages 8.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in just 18 minutes per game.
Boylen’s first-ever recruit, Chris Hines, went on to start 30 games for Drake last year and was the team’s second-leading scorer on 40 percent 3-point shooting.
And Will Clyburn, the Utes’ leading scorer and rebounder in 2010-11, went to Iowa State, where he led the Cyclones in scoring at 15 ppg and is now playing ball in Germany.
I won’t argue that the Ute program would be better off now if Boylen were still the coach. Larry Krystkowiak is a good guy who has done an excellent job of rebuilding the Ute program and could take the Utes to the NCAA Tournament as early as this season.
However, you must admit that Boylen, for all of his faults as a coach, did recruit some pretty decent players while he was here.
Since we’re about at the halfway point of the college basketball season, it’s a good time for a few observations about each of the local college teams.
• Once BYU got Matt Carlino under control, the Cougars are looking like their old selves again. The Cougars have won five straight and could contend for their first West Coast Conference title in a more balanced WCC this year. Saturday’s game at Gonzaga will be huge.
• Utah is 14-4 overall and sits in the upper division of the Pac-12 for the first time in three years. If the Utes can stay there, they could make the Big Dance for the first time in five years. At the very least, they should make the NIT this year.
• Don’t look now, but Utah Valley is leading the WAC standings in its first season with a 4-0 record after road wins over Idaho and Seattle over the weekend. Coach Dick Hunsaker’s bunch hasn’t played league favorite New Mexico State yet, but the Wolverines have proven they belong in the league and will have a shot to go to the NCAA Tournament for the first time with a win at the league tournament in March.
• Utah State is finding the going a bit rougher in the Mountain West Conference than it did in the WAC or Big West. The Aggies have lost their first three road games and still haven’t been to the Pit, the Thomas & Mack Center or the Viejas Arena in San Diego. The Aggies may end up .500 or less in league play for the first time since they went 8-8 in the Big West in Stew Morrill’s first year (1998-99)
• What happened to Weber State this year? The Wildcats were the big favorites to win the Big Sky this year and could still win it. But they’ve gotten out of the gates slow and are just 7-6 overall. On Saturday night they trailed most of the game against Southern Utah, which is having a terrible season, before pulling it out in the final minute — at home.
• How terrible is the T-Birds’ season? They are 1-14, rank 350 out of 351 teams in the latest Sagarin rankings (only Grambling State is worse) and they also rank 351st in scoring offense and 351st in shooting percentage.
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