"My job as a head coach, no matter what level you're at, is to hold your staff and players accountable. That's what it's all about. Not accountable to my goals, but their goals. My team's goals … they want to win."— Jim Boylen, March 27, 2007
Almost four years later the bottom line was the Utes simply didn't win enough, and over the weekend a change was made by director of athletics Chris Hill. Following back-to-back losing seasons, Hill cited the "program's direction" as one of myriad reasons for making a change. In four seasons, Boylen's record was 69-60 and 32-32 in Mountain West play, certainly not horrible numbers, but perhaps numbers trending the wrong way for a program heading into a new era and conference next season.
So the move that many Ute fans have been clamoring for has been made, and now the search is on for the 16th head coach in the storied history of University of Utah basketball.
But before we look ahead, please let me take a minute to tell you a few things about Jim Boylen and his staff that you may not know. Let me just say that while the results may not have been there, no staff worked harder than Boylen and his assistants Stan Johnson, Barret Peery and Jeff Smith.
They gave all they had for four years to the Utah program; good men and good basketball coaches that simply didn't succeed at a high enough rate. They all loved the university and Salt Lake City and are heartbroken about not being able to finish the job they started. All are excellent basketball coaches and will land on their feet, let's hope sooner rather than later.
Now what's next for the University of Utah? Hill is now in search of a head basketball coach for the third time in seven years, and with the move to the Pac-12 next season, this hire becomes that much more important to the future of Utah basketball.
Here are a couple of things that I do know about the next hire from my conversations with Hill. He isn't placing any restrictions on his next hire and will not limit his search to a specific type of coach. The search doesn't have a timetable associated with it. Hill feels it's more important to get the right guy then to get someone quickly to fill the vacancy.
Now here's my two cents' worth on coaching criteria for the next Runnin' Ute head coach:
Head coaching experience: After back-to-back losing seasons and heading into the Pac-12 next season, I think that Utah basketball would benefit greatly from someone who has been there and done that before as a head coach. The program is in too tenuous a situation to have someone running it who is going through everything for the first time.
A successful Division I recruiter: If there was one big issue over the last four seasons, it was likely the lack of Division I players brought into the Utah program. Utah can't rely on JC guys to build a program. Juco players should be used as a fill-in or stop-gap guys. It's hard to use junior colleges as foundation or cornerstone guys.
The Pac-12 may have been down the last couple of seasons, but it's a conference that has a tradition of big-time basketball. Utah will have to begin battling for recruits in markets like Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle and the Bay Area. Someone with West Coast ties might be a good idea.
Now, let the speculation and the guessing begin on who might be next in line on the Hill!
One last note, big congratulations to Anthony Leverets, the head coach of the Utah women's basketball team. Leverets and the ladies won the Mountain West tourney title last weekend and will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center.
Leverets did an excellent job in his first season as head coach, succeeding legendary Elaine Elliott. I hope he soon gets the interim tag removed from his title and gets the job full time, because I think he will do an excellent job carrying on the tradition that Elliott established in her tenure at Utah. He's off to a terrific start already!
Bill Riley can be heard as the radio voice of the University of Utah on game days and also on weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill and Spence Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.