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Ted S. Warren, AP
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak talks to players, including guard Parker Van Dyke, center, during a game against Washington State, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Pullman, Wash. Utah won 77-70.
I want to be like Jon. —Utah head basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak

SALT LAKE CITY — Jon M. Huntsman Sr., continues to have a positive impact on the Utah Utes. The philanthropist, who passed away Feb. 2 at the age of 80, is very much on the mind of head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

“That’s going to be something that hangs with me for a long time,” said Krystkowiak, who noted having a few dozen lunches with Huntsman over the years. They would sit down and visit for about an hour.

Krystkowiak has high praise for Huntsman and how he understood the purpose of life was to “make a difference.” Krystkowiak added that Huntsman was a great family man, husband, father and an ultra-successful businessman.

At Huntsman’s funeral, Krystkowiak was especially impressed by remarks from one of the billionaire's sons. He mentioned that his father’s theme was always to “go big” when battling some of the chemical giants back in the day. The Huntsman Corporation was able to successfully tangle with them.

Stories of Huntsman’s perseverance and stick-to-itiveness with things that didn’t go well also impacted Krystkowiak. So, too, did Huntsman leaving his mark as a “people person” with charitable causes and many other things that didn’t bring recognition.

Krystkowiak considers Huntsman a shining example.

“I want to be like Jon,” said Krystkowiak, who has sent letters to Huntsman’s children explaining that his legacy lives on.

It’s something that Krystkowiak has thought a lot about. He’s convinced that when you lose someone, you should take their best traits and pass them forward, try to keep them alive.

“So a lot of times that’s what I’m thinking about with Jon,” Krystkowiak said. “It was a heck of an opportunity for my path to cross his and I’m always going to be thinking about him.”

Krystkowiak expressed a strong faith. At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, he told reporters about losing his mother when he was just 8 years old.

“I’ve always kind of tied the voice that I hear in my head with that of God, but also potentially my mom,” Krystkowiak said. “Maybe they’re one in the same.”

As the Utes prepare for Saturday’s regular-season finale against Colorado in the Huntsman Center, Krystkowiak noted they may have a little help in their corner.

“If anybody was allowed to pull a few strings, once they got up there, Jon would probably be one of the guys that might be given a little carte blanch to make a few things happen, you know, from an angle point of view and having an impact,” he said.

Krystkowiak had more to say on the matter.

“I believe that. We’ve gotten a few bounces here and there. We’ve got to make our own bounces but we’ve gotten a few bounces and some things have kind of fallen into place,” he continued. “I think our kids are inspired by it in dedicating the season to him.”

Playing in a building with Huntsman’s name on it and those kind of things adds to it.

“I just think that we’re latching our wagon onto it and we’re going to go down swinging if we go down,” Krystkowiak said.

• • •

Colorado (16-13, 8-9)

at Utah (18-10, 10-7)

Huntsman Center

Saturday, 5 p.m.

TV: P12N

Radio: ESPN 700AM

Email: dirk@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @DirkFacer