Ask A Coach Larry Krystkowiak Interview Pt 1

The new Ute head man talks about players leaving the program, the huge 2011 recruiting, returned missionaries and more...

*Note- Some questions have been modified for an interview situation

How have the two months on the job been?

We're settling in here a bit with the staff and as a team. It's been really intense and crazy for the most part right now and we're moving into some future recruiting. Kids are coming back here for summer school. We're shifting gears, but it's been good.

What told you that Utah is the right place to be and the right job for you?

I think regionally, growing up in Montana, and being very familiar with this western region was super enticing. You can't overlook the basketball tradition that's been here and what's in place. Now moving forward into the Pac 12, I liked the combination of those things. It can be a little bit daunting coming into an area that has never had success. Certainly it has been done before here and I realize that we are in a bit of a down cycle. I'm optimistic that we can get back to those days when the program was really rolling.

JamisonCore Question- It's been about ten years since Utah basketball has been relevant on the national stage. What is is going to take to get back to where the program was before?

Well we need some players. It starts with recruiting the right players and putting a team together. You get them here and then you coach the heck out of them. You turn them into a team that competes on a daily basis. At the end of the day, when you look at successful teams, it starts with players and that's where our focus is right now around the clock not just with this year, but with 2012 and 2013. You bust your tail in recruiting and try to latch on to a couple of special kids. To me that is how you build a program.

You brought in a huge recruiting class in a short amount of time. How difficult was that to pull off and how did you go about it?

It was kind of interesting because when we took over we knew that we had two or three scholarships to fill, which we did. As time went on and we had more attrition from the program where guys couldn't make up there minds as to whether they were staying or going. We kinda helped facilitate that process. We reached a point as a staff where we wanted guys that wanted to be here and wanted to be Utes and we weren't getting that feeling back from a number of the players so we suggested that they look elsewhere. It opened up more spots for us here to recruit. What started as a two or three player process, turned into more. I think we've signed seven new guys, and only one, George Matthews, was recruited prior to when we got here. It was more of a daily survival thing and moving on. It was pretty spooky looking back to what we had to do to land these guys. I think the caliber of player is pretty high, and the caliber of character is pretty high. Looking back on it, I'm real pleased with how it has gone, but still at the end of the day guys have to get here and produce, get the uniform on, and get it done. There's not a whole lot to evaluations and two stars and three stars and that kind of thing as much as it is taking some action and getting better.

bsutefan Question- Is the class set or are you looking to bring in anymore players?

I think our class is set. We've got Josh Sharp who is a returning missionary this summer, and there is still some gray area as to what his plans are when he gets back in a few weeks, but he would complete our roster. Most of our focus is on 2012 as we head into that July period where the recruiting never ends. I feel strongly that it is set, but there could still be one spot depending on what happens with Josh.

Kickrox Question- There has been some negative attention about your handling of returning missionaries. What is your plan going forward with missionaries? What is your stance on players wanting to take missions?

My thought is to find basketball players with no thought whatsoever to race, religion, or whatever that player's interests are. If we recruit the right kind of recruit to our program and that player wants to go on a mission for two years, we're going to welcome that situation completely. I love the idea of a basketball player wanting to go on the mission and mature and grow up and sort a few things out in life. I think that is the intention of the mission. It's pretty broad in terms of finding out who you are. All of a sudden you're two years more mature. You've had some time individually and through the church to sort some things out. You'd like to think that when a person comes back they're going to be better prepared for four years of college. I think some negatives were created when I first took the job, people wanted to do damage, and some of our competitors wanted to created issues that don't exist. We're recruiting a number of players that are LDS and if they should pursue a mission, we're behind them 100 percent.

Bshmaverick Question- Were you surprised that so many players asked to be released?

I was. I knew that there were a couple coming right away. It didn't matter who the next coach was, as that was always their plan. It was more of situation where they waited here five weeks without a head coach and had planned on getting their release with the ties to the old staff so I wasn't surprised at that. We didn't have 8 people that left. We had a combination of people that left the program and a combination of people that we felt should leave the program. When we came in we had four kids that were gone automatically, which opened some spots. We didn't take it too personally that they were moving on. I think some of the guys wanted to play division 2 or division 3. There were a couple of players that we would have loved to have stayed, but it didn't work out. I think some of that attrition was going to happen regardless. I think some of that attrition was going to happen if they kept the same coach. Just one of those situations that we had to step into.

Kickrox Question- Utah has had success recruiting on the international stage. Is that still going to be a priority?

Most definitely.

SonicUte Question- What's the status of the planned summer trip to Europe. Is that still happening?

It was planned for this summer, but there was no way that we could do it in light of the roster situation. Before players can go on a trip, they have to be enrolled in school. We wouldn't have been able to field a team with only four returning players. Next summer we're looking forward very much to get our team assembled and going overseas and taking ten days to take advantage of a trip that you're only allowed every four years.

What is the goal of a trip like that?

I think it is very far reaching. Team building and camaraderie. Spending some time away from your own country. How can you put a price on that in terms of value? It gives you an opportunity to practice ten times before you leave, which as we all know during the summer time, is not allowed by the NCAA. It gives you a jumpstart in terms of getting your team together and getting some things in place. To top it all off, you get a passport and get to go to Europe and see parts of the world that some of these guys haven't had a chance to see.

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