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Utah basketball: New contract settled, Krystkowiak focused on the future

Published April 25, 2014 9:23 pm

College basketball • "We really think we have the things in place to keep improving," coach says.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For a man who signed a five-year, $7 million contract on Thursday, coach Larry Krystkowiak seemed a bit reserved only a day later.

"It was an exciting day," he said. "But now it's over. We're out here recruiting."

The head coach of Utah men's basketball doesn't have a lot of time to spike the football — he's building a program over here. Less than 24 hours after securing his future with the Utes, all his thoughts are shifting onto what lies ahead, which is the reason he got his contract in the first place.

Athletic director Chris Hill said Thursday that locking down Krystkowiak was a priority because he felt the program was "moving in the right direction." Entering into his fourth year at the U., Krystkowiak said in an interview with the Tribune that he feels the same way.

"We really think we have the things in place to keep improving," he said. "I've been around the college game long enough to see what's out there, and I really believe this is one of the best jobs in the country right now."

This offseason finds the Utes poised for a true breakout year.

Part of it is who comes back: Delon Wright, Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor and almost all of the rest of the talent that helped Utah win 21 games last year, including going 9-9 in the Pac-12. While it was a vast improvement from Krystkowiak's miserable first 6-win season, the Utes didn't fulfill their ultimate goal of getting back to the NCAA Tournament. They'll be looking to get back next season.

One intriguing storyline next season will be how the returning core blends with the highest-ranked recruiting class the Utes staff has wrangled in. Five signees, including four frontcourt players, will have to carve out roles. Unlike previous classes, the 2014 group won't necessarily need to play a ton of minutes right away, but Krystkowiak said he's excited to see who stands apart.

"I think every coach in American probably likes their recruiting class right now, but the hope is you bring in some kids who exceed expectations," he said. "We love the guys coming back, and we have a lot of stability with those guys."

There's also some long-term stability ahead with the $36 million basketball practice facility which will break ground in the next few weeks. With lead donations from Jon and Karen Huntsman, Krystkowiak said he expects it to "set the bar" in the Pac-12.

"That's something that's been talked about around Utah for a lot of years, long before I got here," he said. "The fact that it's coming to fruition is exciting. I'm fortunate that these things are coinciding."

Krystkowiak also mentioned that Hill and the administration were working to negotiate bigger deals for the basketball assistant coaches, who have each worked for him throughout his three-year tenure. Said Krystkowiak of Tommy Connor, Andy Hill and DeMarlo Slocum: "I wouldn't be where I'm at without them."

It's not part of some grand, multi-year vision mapped out in every minute detail, Krystkowiak said. He tries to instill in his players and his staff that it's an everyday process, so he keeps the shorter-term goals in sharper focus.

Piece by piece: That's how the Utes will keep up progress.

"For us, today and tomorrow, we try to do a little bit better," he said. "If you do that over the course of months and years, and the end of the day you hope you're trending upward. Getting a contract, it's something that's the byproduct of trying to do that every day."

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon