Before University of Utah men's basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak climbed into heavy construction machinery to knock down the first piece of the HPER building, making way for a new basketball facility on Monday, he explained that it wasn't the brick and mortar that drives the program, it's the people.
"You can have the fanciest building, but if you don't have the right people in it, it's all for naught," he said.
That was an important point to establish for a coach that has been building a successful program on relationships and people, while waiting for the buildings and facilities to come. And now, finally, that building Krystkowiak has been waiting for is on its way. On Monday, ground was broken on the $36 million Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Basketball Center.
On hand to dedicate the new facility were honored guests Jon and Karen Huntsman, University of Utah President David Pershing, Utah athletic director Chris Hill, Spence Eccles, Krystkowiak, men's basketball player Jordan Loveridge, women's basketball coach Anthony Levrets, and women's basketball player Taryn Wicijowski. Each made a few remarks about the importance of the new facility. Also in the audience among the invited guests were former Utah basketball players, the basketball staff, and members of the construction team.
The state-of-the-art basketball center, which will sit just northwest of the Jon M. Huntsman Center, will house training and practice facilities for both the men's and women's basketball teams. And for those trying to picture the new center, the facility will bring many of the same features found in another new sports facility on campus, the Spence and Cleone Eccles Football Center. Both facilities offer everything a student athlete could wish for, including two gymnasiums, a strength and conditioning center, a sports medicine center, film rooms, lounge areas, locker rooms, a nutrition center, a media center, and staff offices. Many other facilities were looked at before the final design of the new center was determined, with the goal of making the Utes new home the best in the conference. The center is expected to be completed by the summer of 2015.
"It's not a facility that's gonna keep us up with the PAC-12...," Krystkowiak said. "I truly believe, and when you see the pictures and you see the finished product, it's going to set the bar for the Pac-12."
It's an important step for both programs in terms of training, student athlete support, and of course, attracting new recruits. For Levrets, who has also been trying to build his program in a new top-level conference, the new center will offer him the opportunity to show potential players a facility that many women's athletic programs across the country aren't fortunate enough to possess. He talked about being able to show kids a great facility and create a "home for our players to live in."
Kyrstkowiak is also focused on a similar sense of "home," with hopes that this new facility will be the final part in the three-part basketball "culture" he is trying to create at the University of Utah. The first part is the "who," that entails who the basketball team is, making sure that he has the right coaches, staff, and players around him. The second facet is the "how," or "how we do things around here," said Krystkowiak. That how, is running a simple, streamlined program. Krystkowiak is known for being an honest straightforward kind of man and runs his basketball program accordingly. And the final component, is the "where," which is what the new facility will bring.
If Krystkowiak's steadily building success over the last few years in terms of wins, recruiting, and his recently inked five-year contract is any indication of how this idea of culture is coming along, then the completion of the new basketball facility should establish that culture firmly on The Hill for years to come.