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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Jim Boylen's enthusiasm was a trait that attracted Utah athletic director Chris Hill during the search for a new basketball coach.
Boylen demonstrated quickly that he was every bit as gung-ho as billed shortly after being introduced Tuesday as leader of the Utes, leaving a Big Ten school for his first head coaching job.
"I don't think it's a mid-major," Boylen said in a room packed with reporters, boosters and his new players at the Huntsman Center. "It's a big major to me. If it's not, then we're going to be."
Boylen, an assistant at Michigan State the past two years and a veteran NBA assistant, repeatedly said how "pumped" and "jacked" he was to take over a program that has struggled the last two years.
"I feel in my heart we could be great here in Utah," he said.
Boylen sounded a bit more like he was coming to coach football rather than basketball.
"We have to improve our toughness, and we have to improve our competitive edge," Boylen said. "Those two things have to improve. That's my job."
He said any opposing players who plan on driving the lane can expect to get hit as he again emphasized how toughness will be a priority.
"People might play," he said, "but tough people win."
Boylen, who turns 42 in April, inherits a team that went 11-17 this season but had just one senior. He replaces Ray Giacoletti, who resigned under pressure after three seasons.
Although Boylen has never been a head coach, he has 20 years of experience working for some of the most successful in basketball. He worked for Tom Izzo at Michigan State and assisted Rudy Tomjanovich with the Houston Rockets, where he was part of back-to-back NBA championships.
Boylen, wearing one of his big, gold NBA title rings on his right hand, said the jewelry never hurts him when it comes to recruiting.
"It speaks about the mountain top. Getting to the mountain top is what it's all about," he said. "You've got to believe it before you do it and I believe it."
Boylen has a five-year contract at $575,000 a year and said he doesn't plan on leaving quickly.
Hill said Boylen answered most of his questions before they were asked when they met last week in San Antonio.
"I thought he was cheating -- he had a crib sheet or something," Hill joked. "I love his enthusiasm. I love his commitment."
Boylen said he became familiar with the area when he coached Houston's NBA summer league teams in Salt Lake City.
"I think it's a great place to live and compete at the highest level," he said. "Those kind of combinations are hard to find."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-03-27-07 1649MDT