When Jim Boylen inherited a broken program from his predecessor, he discussed the need for consistency. Consistency is the bedrock of a strong program. If you lack it, you probably are going to lack the sustained success needed to build that strong program.
Utah basketball in its current incarnation is not very strong. It hasn't been a strong program since the Rick Majerus days and much of that has to do with the lack of overall consistency.
Take the Runnin' Utes' win over the New Mexico Lobos Saturday. It was an impressive victory on the road against a team that rarely loses on its home floor. But it was as frustrating as it was exhilarating because it gave us a glimpse into what could be under Boylen instead of what is.
The question facing Chris Hill and the athletic department is whether or not Boylen has what it takes to take Utah from their current state and turn it into what many of us expect under his leadership.
That is not an easy question to answer. It's one that will certainly divide the fanbase in the weeks and months to come and Hill's ultimate decision, whether to retain Boylen or fire him, is not going to be a slam dunk by any means. It's very possible either scenario sets us up for failure down the road.
What I do know is that Boylen hasn't made Hill's decision any easier. It's still very likely, even if progress is made, that Utah ultimately finishes below .500 on the year. Even so, the team hasn't given up on their head coach and the program hasn't collapsed like it did in the final weeks of the Ray Giacoletti regime.
Boylen hasn't done enough to get the fans behind him and yet hasn't struggled enough to create an outright mutiny.
Lack of consistency will do that to you.
So Hill has to decide in the next month whether or not Boylen's lack of consistency is mostly due to inexperience, or whether it's deeper than that. If it's deeper than that, no amount of experience is going to change the endgame here - Boylen will not create a sustainable program and a change will need to be made.
Unfortunately, I find myself erring on the latter side because I don't see an established consistency to give me hope this program will take the next step under his leadership.
I've maintained all season that Utah is better than their record. Saturday's victory over the Lobos just reinforces that opinion. Because of this, I am skeptical another year will change the overall fundamental problem facing Boylen and the Utes. Experience might mask the deficiencies of inconsistencies, but they're not going to fix them and we'll still have to deal with those issues either a season or two from now because I don't believe they are going away.
I have these concerns because this year's team has fallen into the same traps as last year's squad. It wasn't all bad last year, even though the outcome was a losing season. Those Utes still managed to upset Illinois (in similar fashion to their win over New Mexico Saturday), beat Utah State and knocked off the UNLV Rebels twice and still failed to sniff .500. They failed there because the team also had bad losses to Idaho, Seattle, Illinois State, Oklahoma and Colorado State - all at home!
Had the Utes managed to win each of those five home games, they finish the regular season with 19 wins and have a strong case for a berth to the NIT.
None of those losses are excusable. Even Oklahoma, from the mighty Big 12, had a disastrous season last year.
That kept them from respectability and I mentioned the need for consistency in my expectations for this year. Ute fans in that same post said 19-20 wins were the expectation.
Well there is no way the Runnin' Utes are going to come close to 19 wins this season.
They're nowhere near 19 wins because once again, the losses to beatable teams is fairly staggering. Those losses include Oral Roberts, San Diego, Portland, Air Force (twice!) and Colorado State at home.
It has been those games that kept a rebuilding year from being respectable. It's kept Utah on the wrong side of .500 and far from a decent postseason berth.
If Boylen receives his pink slip at the end of the season, this will be the reason.
Utah has had all season to build on certain wins and they've faltered at every turn. A final, last gasp doesn't change that.
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