Feb. 23, 2012; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak calls in a play to his team during the second half against the California Golden Bears in the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Mandatory Credit: Douglas C. Pizac-US PRESSWIRE
Not much was expected of the Runnin' Utes at the start of the season and as it played out, we quickly figured out why. The team, a hodgepodge of oft second-tiered talent from across the country, struggled to record losses, a winless road record, player defections and the first 20-loss season in program history.
I'm guessing that isn't exactly the debut Krystkowiak had hoped for when he was named the head coach this time last year.
It wasn't good. You can count on one hand the good moments and get lost trying to remember the bad.
So, how good of a job did Krystkowiak do in his first year?
My opinion is that I think he did a decent enough job with what he had. That's probably the only good thing I can say about Krystkowiak's first season. I believe he can coach well and the fact this team managed six wins, when they probably should have won only one or two games, is my reasoning for this.
But in the entire scheme of things, there was nothing out of this first season that indicates to me we're on the right path to success. Much of that is because of the turnover we've seen the last few years (and this goes back to Jim Boylen). There has been no consistency. We've essentially hit the reset button now three out of the last four seasons and you're not going to build a program, let alone a contender, doing that.
Now I get this isn't Krystkowiak's long-term plan, so, I don't want it to sound like I'm suggesting, each year or so, we'll be starting from scratch. But right now, that's exactly what has happened. Krystkowiak saw defections prior to his first season and now he's seen them at the conclusion of his first season. They're not necessarily tied to the same reasoning, and certainly the coaching staff believes it has more talent coming into the program than it's losing, but it's still happening.
Because of that, it's hard for me to give him a complete grade. This year felt so much like a throwaway season that it would be pointless to grade it.
So, I don't think I can. Generally, year one is a transition year, but it often gives you an indication of what to expect down the road. Teams can improve as the season progresses, you can see real glimpses of talent and it often sets up for a better, more established second season. That isn't the case here. This wasn't an instance where the coach came in and won with the other guy's recruits and failed to succeed on his own (Ray Giacoletti) and it's not one where the coach came in, showed some great progress in his first season, giving the fanbase hope that, yes, the future would be bright, even if it didn't turn out that way (Boylen).
Maybe that's what we needed, though. The last two failed coaching hires here came in and saw respectable success in their first year, giving us hope that things would be all right and then, down the line, both failed to sustain it. Boylen did see more success in his second year than his first, but his final two weren't much better than Krystkowiak's first.
Maybe he'll be different. Maybe he'll start slow, turn things around and sustain that turn around.
Then again, maybe he won't.
I guess that's why I can't help but give him an incomplete. There really was nothing from this season, outside the idea that Krystkowiak can coach, which I already believed, established. We still don't know if he can recruit. We still don't know if he can develop talent, and, most importantly, we still don't know if he can build a college basketball program the right way.
In the end, the concerns I had when this hire was made are still concerns today.
Hopefully next year we get a better idea of where this team is heading. But until we do, I think an incomplete is in order.