SALT LAKE CITY — Football season has had an impact on the University of Utah men’s basketball team. All the talk and media attention has prompted head coach Larry Krystkowiak to incorporate the use of coordinators. He said assistant coach Tommy Connor is working a lot with the offense and that assistant coach Andy Hill is keeping a close eye on the defense.
“I think it’s made us more efficient. It’s helping us in our teaching with the guys and things that we’re trying to do and I really like it,” said Krystkowiak, who explained that football got him thinking about making such a move. “There’s an awful lot going on from a head coach’s perspective with different elements and I wanted to make sure we were getting stuff done.”
Empowering the coaches, Krystkowiak continued, was easy and comfortable.
“You don’t hire coordinators in basketball as you would in football, but I think part of it is getting a lay of the land with the coaches that you have and seeing if something makes sense,” he said. “Those two have got a skill set and they’re committed to those things and they’re really just making us more efficient.”
Krystkowiak noted that in basketball it’s really easy for everybody to think about everything because the game is so fluid, there doesn’t seem to be time. However, he thinks there’s a lot of validity to focusing on the specifics.
“I’m not a micro-manager kind of guy, but you can’t be the extreme of a micro-manager and not really be involved with anything enough,” Krystkowiak said. “I didn’t want it to be a typical basketball environment where everybody knows you need to do this, this and this and you’re not doing this — but it’s hard to identify.”
The new approach has worked well, thus far, in scrimmage environments.
“I feel a lot better about it as we move forward and it just kind of frees up my mind. I could chime in wherever I want to,” Krystkowiak continued. “We’re meeting about our plans individually and got the staff involved with some of that stuff. So I think it’s helped us.”
Krystkowiak doesn’t know if any other coaching staffs across the nation are employing such a system, but is pretty sure there are plenty of guys doing something similar. He doesn’t “profess to be on the cutting edge as far as a basketball coach,” but feels like this makes a lot of sense for what he’s trying to accomplish at Utah.
SO FAR, SO GOOD: The Utes have more than one week of practice behind them now.
“Things are going good. We’re learning stuff each and every day,” said sophomore guard Brandon Taylor. “We’re catching on to the concepts that Coach is implementing kind of quickly. We’re just building.”
Krystkowiak acknowledges that there’s been “an awful lot of teaching,” but is pleased with the progress. He agrees with Taylor that things have been really good, thus far.
Aside from a mending ankle, a sore foot and a bout with the flu, Krystkowiak said the players have responded great.
ENJOYING THE PACE: The new rule that allows basketball teams to practice 30 times in the six weeks prior to their first game is a big hit with the Utes. In the past, practices began on or around Oct. 15.
“I do like the pace and the fact that we’ve got some off days,” said Krystkowiak, who added that there’s no need to go beyond two hours per session and it's proved to be healthier for the players and coaches.
“The teaching is good,” he continued. “It just allows us all to slow down and make sure that before we move on to something else we’ve kind of got ‘A’ mastered.”
Utah tips things off with an exhibition game against Saint Martin’s on Nov. 1. The Utes host Evergreen State a week later.
“I like this pace. I feel like we’ve slowed things down and we don’t have to be so worried about cramming something in,” Taylor said. “I feel like we have more than enough time to implement and work on things over and over and over again until we get the concept down. I feel like that’s what we’re doing.”
FACILITY UPDATE: Utah athletics director Chris Hill said that architectural drawings for the new basketball training center will be complete by next month. Officials plan to kick off a fundraising campaign around the third week of November, put shovels in the ground in March, and work toward completion in the fall of 2015.
ON THE BEAT: Krystkowiak’s recent citizen’s arrest of an alleged bicycle and cellphone thief outside the Huntsman Center continues to draw praise.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Taylor said. “It’s always a positive thing to catch someone like that who is doing bad things.”
Hill noted that Krystkowiak showed his sense of humor by referring to himself as “your police detective calling” in a telephone conversation.
“He commands that kind of respect,” said Hill, who had plenty of kind things to say about the coach and the progress being made in the program.