Miller: Runnin’ Utes are ‘enjoying the view from the winning side’

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On Sunday, the Larry Krystkowiak era hit a few milestones, one of which Coach Krystkowiak never thought would be reached.

With Utah’s 77-56 win over Washington, Krystkowiak won his 100th game as a head coach, and with it brought his record at Utah to .500.

“The way things started around here, the last thing I was thinking about or concerned about was getting to .500,” Krystkowiak said. “I always just assumed we’d have a losing record, and I was fine with that — I wasn’t going to be judged on that. It’s one of the results of our process.”

That process has led to the Utes climbing up the rankings, it has brought large crowds back to the Huntsman and made Krystkowiak a lead contender for National Coach of the Year.

Looking back to four years ago, it was hard to imagine things turning around so fast for the Utes. But even as Utah was suffering through a 6-24 campaign in Krystkowiak’s first season at the helm, one West Jordan high school senior believed things could be different.

Jordan Loveridge listened to Krystkowiak’s recruiting pitches and decided to sign on to a program that had reached rock bottom. Since then, Loveridge has seen the program rise from nothing to one of the best in the country, and on Sunday, the junior forward scored his 1,000th point as a Ute.

“Jordan’s one of the early believers in what we were trying to do,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s been a pillar, one of those big foundation pieces. We weren’t very good when he watched us, when he was a senior in high school, but he believed in us. It’s awesome.”

But to Krystkowiak, the process is never over.

“It may be corny, but its all about the journey,” Krystkowiak said “It’s never like you accomplish anything. There have never been any goals or number that were going to define us having success.”

It’s clear in the way the Utes have played that his players have bought in to whatever Krystkowiak is selling. He has trained them to work hard and be team-oriented.

Following Saturday’s contest, the Utah coach talked about the experience his team had training with the Navy Seals in the offseason. He said they did that so they would know what’s it like to fight through things that are hard.

But really, Krystkowiak and Loveridge and the rest of the older Utes have already gone through all the hard stuff. They’ve faced the blowout losses, they’ve dealt with the empty home gyms and they’ve handled the lack of belief in their own fan base.

Yet they kept fighting, and like Loveridge did when he signed with the Utes, they believed. And now, evidenced by the landmarks being hit by both coach and player, they are reaping the rewards of that initial faith.

But the journey is far from over.

“What we’ve done is grinded and worked and managed to win some games, and I don’t want any complacency because then all that stuff goes out the window,” Krystkowiak said. “It can be special if we don’t allow any complacency to creep in.”

Krystkowiak and Loveridge have been on the other side of the spectrum. I think they enjoy the view from the winning side a little better.

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@millerjryan