Editor's note: The Pac-12 announced Monday afternoon Sean Miller, Arizona head coach, was named the Pac-12 John Wooden Coach of the Year.SALT LAKE CITY — The regular season concluded Saturday with another heartbreaking loss for the Utes, losing to Stanford 61-60. And although the final game didn’t end the way Utah was hoping for, the season has been a great success, particularly behind the leadership of head coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Finishing the season with a 20-10 record, Utah improved its win total by five games from last season — first time since the 2008-09 season. But more importantly, the Runnin’ Utes became a household name again in the state of Utah, returning to a rich history of winning games at the Huntsman Center.
When Krystkowiak took over as head coach, following the departure of then-coach Jim Boylen, Utah had won a total of 13 games with a broken program. Players were not invested in the program or the culture and many transferred when Boylen was let go. But the so-called cleansing of the program is exactly what Utah needed.
Krystkowiak’s team only won six games the next season in the school’s first year in the Pac-12 and many criticized the program for another poor hire. But Krystkowiak never wavered and went to work.
Utah's record under Larry Krystkowiak
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Three seasons in as head coach, Utah has exceeded expectations and was in competition for a top spot in the conference up to the last game of the regular season. And although Utah only won two road wins this season, and had a weak non-conference schedule, Kryskowiak has seemingly turned around a struggling program and has proven his team can compete with the best in the conference.
Of all the losses in conference play, Krystkowiak’s team lost all but two games by less than five points, with three of them — Oregon, Colorado and then-No. 4 Arizona — coming down to overtime.
Krystkowiak’s attention to defense also did not go unnoticed. Utah held teams to an average of 64 points per games, which was the 40th best in the country. And for a team that seemed to struggle with rebounding, Utah averaged 26.4 rebounds a game, which was the 21st best in the country.
Adding to Utah’s tough defense, Krystkowiak developed a deep bench on a young team, with many of the team’s so-called role players having a major impact on the team throughout the season.
The season was not perfect and there were many games Utah hoped to be on the opposite side of the stat sheet, but no team in the conference absolutely owned the team. And with all the starters expected to come back next season, the future of the program under Krystkowiak is expect to be bright.
Where Utah took the program in such a short amount of time should be enough to give Krystkowiak the honor of the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.