Coach Giacoletti resigns

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

On Friday morning, U men’s basketball head coach Ray Giacoletti announced that he will resign from his post following the remainder of this season.

“I’d like to thank Dr. (Chris) Hill and the university for the opportunity I’ve had to coach here at Utah,” Giacoletti said. “No one wanted our team to succeed this year more than my staff and I, but that just wasn’t the case. I felt it was in the best interests of the university and the players that I resign and allow the program to move forward.”

The announcement came as a surprise to the Utah players, who still had a game against BYU and the Mountain West Conference tournament to play.

“We were all shocked,” said Utah forward Shaun Green. “We had no idea this was coming, but we do understand that it’s a business and decisions have to be made.”

Although it is not certain whether he was forced to resign or not, Giacoletti met with Utah Athletics Director Chris Hill and determined that it would be best if he left the program after the remainder of the season.

“I don’t want to get into any details of when we met and what we did,” Hill said. “He offered his resignation, I accepted it. Ray (Giacoletti) is such a good guy?a good person. In this deal, you just take it for what it is.”

Giacoletti’s tenure as head coach has been one of great contrast. The Utes qualified for the NCAA Sweet 16 in his first season in 2004-2005, but were just 25-32 over the past two seasons.

During that initial season, the Utes fought their way to an MWC title and a 29-6 record, which was the best record compiled by a Utah coach since Rick Majerus led the Utes to the NCAA tournament championship and a 28-5 record during the 1998-1999 season.

A large part of their success in 2004-2005 can be accredited to eventual No. 1-draft pick Andrew Bogut, whom Giacoletti convinced to return to Utah for his sophomore season and then coached to the National Player of the Year Award.

But the past two seasons have been tumultuous. Last season, the Utes struggled through their conference schedule and finished with the worst record since the 1988-1989 season.

This season has fared even worse for the Utes, as they are currently 11-17 heading into the final weekend of the regular season.

“Obviously, our vision three years ago is not the way it has gone, especially this year,” Giacoletti said. “For whatever reason, we weren’t able to make the necessary strides.”

The Utes have shown promise throughout the season with impressive wins over ranked opponents such as Air Force, Virginia and Washington State. But inconsistency and lack of perimeter defense down the stretch has buried the Utes, as they have lost nine games by six points or fewer.

“We lost a lot of close games at the start of the season,” said Utah center Luke Nevill. “If those had gone another way, we would have had a totally different season. Coach Giac is a great guy and he was a great coach, but it just didn’t work out.”

With the Mountain West Conference tournament right around the corner, many are confused as to the timing of the announcement and how it will affect the team.

“The timing’s never right,” Giacoletti said. “I wanted to do what’s best for this program. I’m a team player when it comes to that. I don’t want to take anything away from trying to get ourselves ready for (Saturday’s game). If it’s best for the university, there’s no great time.”

The Utes, whose roster consists of 10 freshmen and sophomores, are currently in seventh place in the Mountain West Conference. One day after Giacoletti announced his resignation, the Utes were pounded by rival BYU, 85-62.

Following the game, Utah players insisted that Giacoletti’s announcement had nothing to do with their lackluster effort.

“It wasn’t a distraction for us,” Green said. “Coach kept our minds off of it. We just didn’t play very good defense and fell short.”

On Friday, the U bought out the remaining four years of Giacoletti’s contract, paying him close to $800,000. He is the second MWC coach to be bought out within the last month. Last week, New Mexico also reached similar terms with head coach Ritchie McKay’s contract.

Regardless of who replaces Giacoletti, he will likely be placed under the same microscope as the third-year coach was during his tenure.

“We had a job to do, to try to sustain the history and tradition,” Giacoletti said. “For whatever reason, it hasn’t transpired this year with wins with this team. I’m a big boy. I had a job to do and we fell short.”

Tyler Cobb

Ray Giacoletti talks with Shaun Green during the Utes’ loss in the Marriott Center on Saturday. Giacoletti announced his resignation Thursday, but will coach the remainder of the season.