GRIZ GRIT: UM Coaching Roots Run Deep

By Beacon Staff

Larry Krystkowiak was born to be a head basketball coach.

Face it. There are people meant to be in charge and people that should never be handed the gavel.

I’ve worked with both kinds at the University of Montana and can tell you from personal experience, long before Larry took the reins of the Continental Basketball League Idaho Stampede in Boise, there was no doubt in my mind that he possessed the makeup required to have success at any level he chose.

And now after a short tenure on Avery Johnson’s staff at New Jersey, Krystkowiak will take his brand of Zen-like, Phil Jackson inspired optimism parlayed with an incredible work ethic to the floor of the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City as he takes over the program at the University of Utah.

The Utah capital won’t be unfamiliar to Krystkowiak. He was a popular player there in 1992-93. His 11-year NBA career began in San Antonio after being traded by Chicago, which drafted him as the 28th pick in the second round.

Ironically “Krystko,” who finished his pro career with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, counts former Utah Jazz mentor Jerry Sloan as a friend and a strong coaching influence.

The Utes, who move from the Mountain West to the PAC-12 next season, fired Jim Boylen after a 13-18 record in his fourth season and a 69-60 record overall.

Krystkowiak is the second coach with Big Sky Conference connections since Ray Giacoletti moved from Eastern Washington University to the helm at Utah. Utah State Head Coach Stu Morrill, also of course a former Grizzly, removed his name from consideration after he apparently tired of the length of time it was taking for the Utes to make a decision.

After a less than stellar career, Giacoletti was fired after the 2006 season – something that Krystkowiak can relate to since he suffered a similar fate when he was released from the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks about 12 months after getting the head job when Terry Stotts was fired.

Sounds like a great career path doesn’t it?

A former three-time Big Sky Conference MVP, Krystko made his coaching debut at UM under Don Holst in 1998, leaving to join Blaine Taylor at Old Dominion for a season.

His first head job brought a championship berth in Boise as the Stampede ran to a 37-16 mark in 2003-04. When he moved back to his alma mater, he won 42 of 62 outings, reached the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years, and won the school’s first NCAA game of the modern era – beating fifth-seeded Nevada in 2006.

One thing Utah players will quickly discover: You’ll know where you stand with the big guy from the onset and you’d better be ready to step it up.

It sure will be interesting this year when the Utes face off in their first PAC-12 game with the University of California, coached by Krystko’s former UM boss Mike Montgomery.

And don’t be surprised by the time you read this if a member of the current UM coaching staff, the one with the most seniority, hasn’t signed on at Utah.

The UM coaching legacy continues to run deep and long.

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