Jim Boylen could have succeeded in Pac-12

Former Utah head basketball coach Jim Boylen was fired after a rough stretch for Utah basketball. In his final season with the Utes, Boylen’s team finished just 13-18 in the Mountain West, and he was let go by Athletic Director Chris Hill.

Prior to his dismissal, Boylen was adamant his team would have competed favorably in the Pac-12. With hindsight as our aid, it’s clear Boylen was right.

Many of the players who transferred after Boylen’s firing in 2011 were juniors and would now be graduates. But their transfers forced many of them to sit out for a season, meaning we are just now getting to see the potential team Boylen left behind, and just how well it could have performed in last season’s awful Pac-12.

The glaring departure is Will Clyburn, a small forward who transferred to Iowa State after Boylen left. He averaged 17 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his lone season at Utah, and he’s putting up similar numbers at Iowa State. Although his 3-point shooting has dipped, he’s still averaging 14.4 points and 7.6 rebounds for the Cyclones in the Big 12.

JJ O’Brien, Boylen’s prized freshman recruit in the 2010-2011 season, is maturing at San Diego State. He earned the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week award after averaging 12 points and 6.5 rebounds in wins over Nevada and then-No. 15 New Mexico. This season, O’Brien is 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds and has started in all 20 of the Aztecs’ games.

Another prospering former Ute is Shawn Glover, the lanky forward who is putting up 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for Oral Roberts, a team that beat Utah during Boylen’s tenure.

Add in Chris Kupets, Antonio DiMaria, Preston Guiot and Dominique Lee as well as current players David Foster and Jason Washburn, and Utah would have had a very talented roster in the 2011-2012 season. We also can’t forget point guard Josh Watkins, who stayed at Utah but was dismissed from the team last year by current head coach Larry Krystkowiak.

Detractors would be wise to point out the team with the above players had a terrible 13-18 season under Boylen, but there are plenty of indications they would have improved the following season. These players had little experience with each other in the 2010-2011 season as most were spending their first years together. Not only would they have gelled in the following season, but they also would have been playing against far worse competition in the Pac-12 than what the Mountain West has to offer.

And, of course, we have hindsight on our side. The players who left Utah were good. They are having significant impacts in the Big 12 and Mountain West — conferences far tougher than the Pac-12.

Hill made a good hire in Krystkowiak, but with the way ex-Utah players are performing, it’s fair to ask whether Boylen should have been fired. It was a tumultuous couple years that preceded Boylen’s departure, but it’s clear he had a decent foundation built for at least Utah’s immediate future. Instead of suffering through last season’s debacle and this year’s mediocre team, we could have been watching Boylen’s squads realistically compete for Pac-12 titles.

Krystowiak has Utah basketball going in the right direction, but it is possible that the program is two years behind schedule because it let Boylen go.

There are 3 comments

Add yours
  1. GoUtes33

    You forgot to mention 2 crucial factors: 1) Boylen is not a good coach – particularly on the floor. While the Utes may have had a more talented team this year they would have been only marginally better in the W-L column because of coaching. We may have eked out an NIT bid. 2) Fans did not like Boylen. Even when he had success and made the NCAA tourney many fans were disillusioned by Boylen’s antics on the sideline and coaching decisions on the floor. Overall, your views are short-sighted. Chris Hill made a long term decision. Yes, it sacrificed mediocre seasons for poor seasons, but in the long run the Utes are much better off with Boylen out of the picture. Once they start winning (which should be next year) the fans will return as well.

  2. UtahMan13

    The blind faith for Coach K on the various local websites is really baffling to me. Honestly, what has he done to show that he is the guy to bring us back to relevance? He couldn’t sell his vision to the Boylen players that transferred (and who are now making names for themselves elsewhere). He hasn’t brought in one impact recruit with the lone possible exception of Loveridge (and the jury is still out on him). His best player is a Boylen recruit (Washburn) who will be gone after the season. And despite softening the schedule to an embarrassing degree, has managed to win only 7 Division I games this season (and we may not see another). I’m not sure things can get any worse, but I thought that last season. Had Boylen been given another year, we probably could have avoided this mess. Mr. Bullinger makes a strong argument for that. The guy inherited an 11 win team and won MWC regular season / tournament titles in Year 2. Did he suddenly forget how to coach after that? I think not. The objective evidence would seem to indicate that he just needed a little more time after losing everyone from the championship team. I always believed that if we were going to move on from Boylen, we needed to spend on a name coach with a proven track record as a recruiter. It doesn’t matter how good of a coach you are if you can’t recruit and I just don’t see it from this staff. If things don’t change for the better soon, it will be hard to afford them any more patience than we gave to Boylen.

Post a new comment