Utes announce Boylen as new coach

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Jim Boylen, Michigan State assistant coach, has been officially selected as the next coach of the U men’s basketball team.

The announcement made yesterday by Utah Athletics Director Chris Hill confirmed rumors that had been circulating through various newspapers and Internet sites over the past few days.

“We’re excited to have Jim as our new head coach,” Hill said. “He is someone who has a tremendous knowledge of the game of basketball, cares about his players, is into the individual development of each player and shares our vision for the University of Utah basketball program.”

The 41-year-old Boylen brings with him a pedigree of success and experience, having been an assistant coach to Rudy Tomjanovich for 11 years during the Houston Rockets’ glory days. While Boylen was there, the Rockets won two NBA championships (1994 and 1995) and went to the Western Conference Finals once (1997).

For the past two years, Boylen has served as an assistant to Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans went to the NCAA tournament both seasons.

“I’m ecstatic for Jim. The Utah basketball job is a great job, and he deserves this opportunity,” Izzo said. “Jim is an extremely hard worker with a great basketball mind who has made some great contributions at Michigan State and understands the demands and responsibilities of being a head coach.”

Boylen is considered to be a cunning strategist, both on offense and defense, and has pulled in a number of high-profile athletes with his jovial demeanor.

“I’ve just got to say that I’m jacked,” Boylen said in yesterday’s press conference. “Utah has 28 championships here. I’m 41 and I figure I have about 20 good years of coaching in me, so if I don’t leave Utah with 48 championships, then I don’t think I’ve done my job.”

With nearly the entire Runnin’ Utes’ roster coming back, Boylen will inherit a wide breadth of talent, including three leading scorers in Luke Nevill, Johnnie Bryant and Shaun Green.

“We are going to develop those players,” Boylen said. “We are going to turn young men into men, and we’re going to be passionate about how we do it. We are going to play hard, and we’re going to compete. If we do those things and we learn everyday, we’re going to be a team that Utah fans can be proud of.”

Boylen will take over the job three-and-a-half weeks after former coach Ray Giacoletti resigned with a losing record.

Despite showing potential with wins over ranked opponents Washington State, Air Force and Virginia early in the season, the Utes struggled with consistency and looked to be lacking motivation.

But above all else, it was the Runnin’ Utes’ defense that led them to the school’s worst record since the 1973-1974 season. That porous Utah defense allowed opponents to accumulate an average of 72.2 points per game while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Needless to say, that problem will surely be addressed before the start of next season. Boylen comes straight from the defensive-minded Big 10, where the Spartans allowed an average of just 57.2 points per game.

“I think the biggest need for our team is to improve our toughness and improve our competitive edge,” Boylen said. “If we do those two things, I think we have enough talent and skill level to win games. Those are the two areas that we are going to focus on and improve, and that’s why I’m here.”

Boylen has never held a head coaching position before, but has been part of a coaching staff since graduating from Maine University in 1987.

Straight out of college, Boylen joined the MSU staff as a graduate assistant and was promoted to assistant coach shortly thereafter. Initially, he coached the Spartans for five years before making the jump to the NBA. He served 13 years in the NBA as an assistant for the Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Milwaukee Bucks before returning to Michigan State for the past two seasons.

“We’re going to start today and try to build something special and it’s going to take everyone in order to do it,” Boylen said. “From here on out, there is no ‘I’ in Utah basketball. It’s only we, us and the MUSS.”

Lennie Mahler

Jim Boylen answers questions during a press conference after being announced as the new U men’s basketball head coach by Athletics Director Chris Hill on Tuesday. Boylen has worked the past two years as assistant coach to Michigan State and has 13 years of experience in the NBA.