Boylen up success

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

New Runnin’ Utes head coach Jim Boylen had already won over the media in a press conference Tuesday. On Thursday, it was time to try to woo the players at his first practice.

It looks as though he did just that.

“I already feel like I’ve learned a lot just from one practice,” said Utah forward Shaun Green. “He knows exactly what needs to be done and I’m excited for next year.”

Exactly what needs to be done to resurrect the Utah basketball program to its former glory is uncertain. But one thing is for sure: Defense will help.

Boylen started his first practice as head coach of the Utes by addressing the team’s defensive woes, which was the main reason Utah finished with its worst record in more than three decades.

“I really like his enthusiasm and how much emphasis he puts on defense,” said Utah center Luke Nevill. “We had a situation this year where guys weren’t really buying into the defensive philosophy. I have a feeling that won’t be the case next year.”

So, what exactly is the difference between former coach Ray Giacoletti’s defense and new coach Jim Boylen’s methods?

“He really pays attention to detail,” said Utah forward Daniel Deane. “He had a particular way he wanted us to defend, and he stopped to critique us until we got it right.”

Particularly, Boylen places a lot of emphasis on help-side defense, where a player doesn’t only guard his man, but one or two others as well.

“He really preached to help each other out, and that’s really important,” Nevill said. “When someone has the ball now, we’re taught to have at least six eyes on him. That will make it a lot tougher for teams to get to the basket.”

On the offensive end, Boylen stressed the importance of transition offense and the ability to run the floor. Of course, to have a solid transition game, the team would have to be extremely well conditioned.

“Yeah, he talked a lot about us staying in shape,” Green said. “He told us that we were going to be the most conditioned team in the country. That’s good to hear because we weren’t in great shape last year.”

That’s not sarcasm, either. Green and the rest of the Utes gladly welcome a change to the regime. And why shouldn’t they? Under Giacoletti this season, the Utes finished with a paltry 11-19 record — the worst at Utah since the 1973-1974 season.

This year, the Utes ranked last in the Mountain West Conference in field goal defense (.500), three-point percentage defense (.463) and turnover margin (-3.03).

But Boylen can’t do anything about the past — his concern is getting the players ready for next season.

“We are going to play hard, and we’re going to compete,” Boylen said in a press conference on Tuesday. “If we do those two things and we learn every day, we’re going to be a team that Utah fans can be proud of.”