SALT LAKE CITY — Days before the men's basketball team was set to tip off its 2020-21 season, Utah's head coach announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
Speaking during his weekly radio show on ESPN 700, Larry Krystkowiak told host Bill Riley that he, along with several players and staff members of the team, recently tested positive for the virus. The positive results forced Utah to cancel its upcoming game with New Orleans Friday.
"I'm in isolation here at the house," Krystkowiak said. "It's been kind of like some flu symptoms and cold symptoms and stuff. It's uncharted territory for me."
Krystkowiak said he's under quarantine until Thanksgiving Day, and then hopes to be back with his team Friday as it prepares to start the season. He said the team considered still playing the game Friday night but felt it was "too daunting" of a task to manage.
"There's a huge part of me that just wanted to play," Krystkowiak said. "Coming out of quarantine Friday morning and that day having a game, that was a little bit daunting to think about, but at the same time I wanted to do it for our guys. But then you start thinking about safety and other issues and I think there's just too much to be lost.
"We're going to regroup and have some good workouts hopefully through the weekend and get ready to kick off the conference a week from Thursday."
Utah, instead, will begin its season on Dec. 3 at the Huntsman Center against conference opponent Washington (5 p.m.) before the Utes will compete in a four-game nonconference schedule that starts on Dec. 8 against Idaho State at the Huntsman Center (3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
Krystkowiak said the team had at least three staff members test positive for the virus recently as well as "a solid number of guys," but he expected most to be available again this weekend. He said the team "outsmarted" themselves when they decided to have the players living with each other to avoid being around others in the public.
"When the COVID struck, we probably outsmarted ourselves — or myself — thinking there's safety in numbers," he said. "We've got five guys living in a house and three guys living in another house, thinking that we could stay away from the public and isolate ourselves. Well, the lion share of all those guys got it."
Utah had previously practiced together as a team, but after some positive tests a "couple weeks ago" were returned, the team transitioned to individual workouts — one player with one coach in the gym.
After Utah's first two games, the Utes will travel to Provo to play in-state rival BYU on Dec. 15. Utah will round out its nonconference schedule with home games against Utah Valley (Dec. 15) and Idaho (Dec. 18) before resuming conference play on Dec. 22 against Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona.
Women's basketball cancels 1st 2 games
The women's basketball team announced Monday night that it, too, had canceled its season-opener that was scheduled against Southern Utah on Wednesday due to a positive COVID-19 case on the team. As a result, several players were forced to quarantine due to contact tracing protocols.
The team's matchup against Utah Valley, which was scheduled for Saturday, has also been canceled.
"After consultation with our medical professionals, and out of an abundance of caution, those games will not be played, and the teams' situation will be evaluated after that," the university said in a news release. "Our top priority is the health and safety of our student-athletes, and all of our decisions will be guided by that principle."