SALT LAKE CITY — Scratch one of the favorites off the list.
According to multiple reports, Utah Jazz associate coach Alex Jensen has taken his name out of the running to become the next University of Utah men's basketball head coach.
Jensen, who won a Mountain West Player of the Year award while playing at Utah, was widely seen as one the favorites for the job left vacant after athletic director Mark Harlan fired Larry Krystkowiak last week. But there was one caveat: Jensen had to decide to leave the NBA.
He's not ready to do that just yet.
Jensen has been on the Jazz coaching staff since 2013 and is seen as a rising star in the profession. Jensen has interviewed for head coaching jobs in past NBA offseasons, and it's expected he'll garner even more interest from NBA clubs with the Jazz's success this season.
"He's incredibly important to our program and to me personally, in so many ways," Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said of Jensen. "Whether it be game management, the things that people see the most of, our preparation process and teaching — he just checks all those boxes. I know, and I think people in the Jazz know how talented Alex is."
It's a blow to the Utes' coaching search, but it's a positive for the Jazz. They get to keep Jensen, who has been pivotal in Rudy Gobert's development into one of the league's most impactful players, for at least a little while longer.
"I can say again how valuable Alex is and what a talented coach he is, and how he'll be successful as a head coach sometime here in the future," Snyder said.
But that won't be at the University of Utah — at least not anytime soon.
So who do the Utes look to now?
Knicks associate head coach Johnnie Bryant, another former Ute, has expressed interest in the job and remains a "significant candidate," according to an ESPN report. Bryant was on the Jazz staff for six seasons before heading to New York. He played for the Utes from 2004-2007.
While the draw to come back to his alma mater may be there, Bryant is also seen as a rising young coach in the NBA. He helped develop Gordon Hayward and Donovan Mitchell into All-Stars while in Utah, and has helped Immanuel Quickley to an impressive rookie year this season. And an NBA head coaching job may very well be in his near future, as well. Or, he could come back home.
The obvious local candidate is Utah State head coach Craig Smith. The Aggies have qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of his three seasons in Logan. Smith reportedly received interest from Minnesota, but the Golden Gophers hired former Xavier assistant coach Ben Johnson to fill its vacant coaching position. That could mean Smith, who is a Minnesota native, could still be pried away from USU.