After a mass exodus, Utah tries to move on

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
12:29
PM ET
Most new coaches face personnel challenges. Players transfer. They leave for the NBA. Or, if they stick around, they do so with a skeptical eye, worried about the changes coming from a coach their school chose for them replacing a coach they were allowed to choose for themselves. It's always a tricky process.

Still, if every newly hired coach in the country got together and held some sort of weird personnel challenge competition -- no, listen to this, I've got you beat here -- new Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak might just take the fraternal crown.

Today, Diamond featured Krystkowiak in one of our typical offseason coaching profiles. Krystkowiak's vagabond path to college coaching is well worth the read; don't miss Diamond's post below. But just as interesting, at least in the short-term appraisal of Utah hoops, is this bit near the end of the piece:
At Utah, Krystkowiak will begin a rebuilding project with only four returning players, including starting point guard Josh Watkins and a shot-blocking presence in 7-foot-3 David Foster. Eight players transferred, leaving the team without top player Will Clyburn, second-leading rebounder and rising sophomore J.J. O’Brien and returning missionary Josh Sharp, who did the unthinkable (for Utah fans) and went to arch-rival BYU.

Eight players transferred! Eight! That's as many transfers as Bruce Pearl has fireplaces. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)

As Diamond writes, there's no way of getting around it: Krysktowiak is in for a long rebuild in his new job. After all, it's not as though Utah was particularly good to begin with. If a host of players had transferred from a good Utes team, that would be one thing. Maybe a few stars would remain. Maybe a skeletal rebuild could begin much sooner.

As it is, Krystkowiak is getting back very little from a team that went 13-18 in 2011. Watkins, his best returning player, consumed 30.2 percent of Jim Boylen's team's possessions last season despite the fact that he was a below average offensive player (offensive rating: 92.9) who shot the ball poorly (eFG: 44.7 percent) and offset his high assist rate with a load of turnovers. Foster, the other returner mentioned above, grabbed rebounds and blocked shots (he had the third-highest block rate in the country, actually) but posted an offensive rating of 87.0 in relatively limited usage.

The rest of the Utes will be a motley selection of untouted freshmen and junior college transfers. Coaches often couch this sort of personnel issue with the classic "we wanted to find guys who wanted to be here" line. Krysktowiak didn't hesitate to say as much.

But no amount of desire "to be here" is going to mask the immediate holes Utah has. Those holes are everywhere, they are large, and they will require a major boost in recruiting to fill. Until then, Krystkowiak's Utes are going to struggle. What else is there to say?

Coaching changes always bring personnel mixups -- it's hard to keep players on campus after the coach they chose is fired. But Krystkowiak's situation might be the most difficult in the country. That's bad news for Utah's fan base, at least in the short term. There are no overnight miracles on the way.

But that's often the nature of rebuilding. Give it a few years, land a few recruits, get lucky here and there, and you never know. It's bad now, but the path to rebirth is never as far as away as it seems.

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