From talking to Utah fans, the only negative in many of their eyes is the fact Boylen lacks head coaching experience. And while I don't think this is a big issue in the case of Boylen (his resume is too extensive for me to be too worried about that), some do. Of course there's always a risk when making a hire and past success does not always translate into success at a new school. The fact Ray Giacoletti came to Utah on the heels of the most successful coaching stint in Eastern Washington history, then flopped, pretty much proves this.
The jump from assistant to head coach is far greater in college football than it is at the college basketball level. Typically assistants have had more success in college basketball taking over the reigns of a program than they do in college football. Obviously this is because college basketball is a more confined sport and not nearly as vast as what you get in a college football program. That's why I have confidence Boylen can step up and take over the program without little difficulty.
Over the years assistant coaches have been able to move a seat up and dominate. Granted there are assistants that don't make it through the transition as a well as others and they obviously can be used as a counterpoint to what I'm saying. But I'm not here to discuss the failures of other assistants and instead would like to focus in on their success.
I think the biggest example when looking at assistants that take over big programs and lead them to success is Roy Williams. He originally was an assistant under Dean Smith, but when Larry Brown bolted for the NBA, Williams became a head coach. Though he lacked any head coaching experience, he won right away and went an unbelievable 418-101 at Kansas. Then he returned to North Carolina where he's gone 106-30 in four years and has won a national championship.
The guy that replaced Williams, Bill Self, started his career as an assistant to Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State. He parlayed that into a gig at Oral Roberts, then that into a stop with Tulsa, before landing at Illinois and then finally taking over at Kansas.
Then there's Jamie Dixon. After Ben Howland bolted for UCLA, Pittsburgh promoted Howland's top assistant and the Panthers have gone 105-30 under his leadership. The drop off from Howland and Dixon is negligible.
Of course Chris Lowery, a popular candidate amongst Utah fans, was an assistant before being thrown into the head coaching position at Southern Illinois when Matt Painter -- an assistant himself prior to being named their head coach when Bruce Weber left for Illinois -- left for Purdue.
I could go on, but I think the point is rather clear. Most coaches start out as assistants before moving up to the head spot. Urban Meyer wasn't even a coordinator before landing the Bowling Green job. And Rick Majerus, prior to taking over at Marquette, probably couldn't even have imagined becoming the coach he turned out to be. Granted, bigger programs like Utah typically don't take risks on assistant coaches. That's mostly reserved for schools that can't land up and coming coach -- who themselves were assistants before getting a job at a smaller program. But sometimes these schools take a gamble and pull out a great hire. Kansas did it with Roy Williams, though it's debatable whether he is a "good" coach, and now Utah is doing it with Jim Boylen. Whether the ending is the same for Utah will not be known for a few years, but just because he's an assistant coach doesn't automatically make him any less qualified for the position than Chris Lowery, Todd Lickliter or Blaine Taylor.
Hell, Boylen coached under a former assistant himself. Tom Izzo had zero head coaching experience when he took over the Michigan State job and he's highly regarded as one of the best coaches in America today. Boylen has a lot to prove, but he took one giant step toward doing that Tuesday afternoon during his press conference. Now it's time for the next step.