Out the door?

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Before Tuesday night’s upset victory over Air Force, many Utah men’s basketball fans were starting to wonder about the direction of the program. It is safe to say that a lot of weight was lifted off coach Ray Giacoletti and his staff following the surprising defeat of the No. 11 Falcons, but many questions still remain.

The U faithful have been openly critical of coach Giacoletti during the Utes’ tumultuous season, some even going so far as to call for a mid-season firing.

Although speculation and criticism from outsiders do not determine whether the coach will keep his job, it will definitely be on the collective minds of the Athletic Department after this season if the Utes do not continue to improve.

Before the upset victory over the Falcons, the Utes’ six-game losing streak was tied for the fifth longest in school history. The last time the Utes had a losing streak of at least six games was Jan. 18 through Feb. 10, 1950–when they lost seven straight.

As far as the Mountain West Conference is concerned, the Utes dropped their first four league games, which hasn’t happened since the 1952-1953 season.

The list goes on and on–and, for most of the year, so has the bleeding. After starting the year with consecutive losses to Southern Utah, Santa Clara and Colorado, the Runnin’ Utes have struggled their way to a 6-12 record. The majority of Utah’s losses have gone right down to the wire, with eight of its 12 defeats coming by a total of 19 points.

Giacoletti’s tenure as head coach at Utah has been one of the most up-and-down stories in college basketball. After taking over in the aftermath and wreckage of Rick Majerus’ residence, coach Giac was able to convince U big man and eventual No. 1 draft pick Andrew Bogut to stick around for his sophomore season. He was also able to persuade the nimble Marc Jackson to return to his point guard position after sitting out his junior year due to a conflict with then-head coach Majerus.

The result was Giacoletti’s most successful season to date, piecing together a 27-5 record and making it to the NCAA tournament regionals before getting knocked off by Kentucky, 62-52. At that point, Giacoletti had the approval of just about everyone in the Runnin’ Ute nation.

“I remember the first year (coach Giacoletti) came in, I was impressed,” U junior Evan Orton said. “For a guy to come in and do as well as he did after Majerus left everything in shambles was something.”

Last season was quite a different story. The Utes jumped out to a 4-0 record early, but tapered off in conference play, finishing the season with a sub-par 14-15 record.

The lack of success and inability to win close games is what has the majority of Utah fans up in arms this season, as the team returned all but one starter from last year’s team.

“I’m not going to jump on the ‘fire coach Giac’ bandwagon yet,” U junior Chaz Washington said. “But they’ve got to start playin’ ball if he’s going to stay.”

It is no secret that there is a significant amount of malcontent in the fan base right now, but what do the Utah players think?

“We haven’t really talked about it, but we know that it’s a business and (the Athletics Department) is going to do what’s best for the program,” U forward Shaun Green said.

Any way fans, players or the administration choose to look at the situation, if the Utes continue to struggle, someone will likely have to answer for it.