Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak and assistant head coach Tommy Connor cheer for Utah Utes center Jayce Johnson (34) after a good play as Utah and Colorado play in the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019. Utah won 78-69.

LAS VEGAS — Utah may have an ace up its sleeve at this week’s Pac-12 Tournament. The Utes have a coaching staff that has been together the longest. Larry Krystkowiak and his assistants — Tommy Connor, Andy Hill and DeMarlo Slocum — have been intact since 2011, covering the program’s entire existence in the Pac-12.

Over that time, eight teams (Arizona State, California, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State) have hired head coaches. The three other programs (Arizona, Colorado and Oregon) have replaced assistants.

Krystkowiak considers Utah’s stability in that regard as an edge.

“It’s no different than a basketball team. You have a group of guys that have been together and kind of know the working parts and our strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “Roles need to be established in staffs as well as they do on the team. So there’s a lot of familiarity with what it is we’re doing and I think it’s an advantage.”

Krystkowiak noted that he didn’t expect his Utah staff to stay together for so long. After all, there’s a lot of movement in the profession.

“All these guys on this staff are going to be great head coaches at some point — whenever that time might come,” Krystkowiak said. “There’s been opportunities for them, but I also think they’re smart guys. They want to take a good job.”

Keeping the staff intact, he acknowledged, may be difficult.

“I feel really lucky and blessed to have them all and when the time comes I’m sure we’ll have to find some replacements.”

As the Utes prepare to face either Oregon or Washington State in the Pac-12 quarterfinals Thursday (9:30 p.m., ESPN) at T-Mobile Arena, seniors Parker Van Dyke and Sedrick Barefield expressed appreciation for a coaching staff that has remained together for so long.

“It’s comforting as a player because of how kind of established our coaching staff is within the conference and as well as how many times they’ve been to the Pac-12 Tournament,” Van Dyke said. “They’ve done all sorts of things. A couple of years ago they ended up going to the championship and they’ve also been there when we’ve lost our first night. So they have a lot of experience and they know what’s best to prepare us for this weekend.”

Van Dyke values the continuity the staff has built over eight seasons together.

“Coaches just don’t stay around that long. Even if head coaches stay, you know, assistants take other jobs — especially when where at this level. They’ll take head coaching jobs at smaller level schools and stuff like that,” Van Dyke said. “It is nice to have that foundation because you see schools like UCLA where there coach is kind of unknown for next year. You make the players, maybe, a little uneasy.

“So that’s something we can have confidence in. That we have a solidified coaching staff that we can believe in and that we can move forward with and that definitely helps,” he added.

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Barefield, a transfer from SMU, agrees. He “absolutely” sees it as an advantage.

“They know exactly what it takes to win at this level. They know what we have to do to prepare the right way,” Barefield said. “Then also just not having to go through a coaching change in my time here has been a blessing. I have developed a great relationship with the coaches and with everybody, so it’s just helped my growth so much.”


Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals

Utah vs. Oregon or Washington State

T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

Thursday, 9:30 p.m. MT


Radio: ESPN 700AM