Miller: Utes building a family environment under Krystkowiak

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(Cole Tan/ The Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Cole Tan/ The Daily Utah Chronicle)
(Cole Tan/ The Daily Utah Chronicle)

When talking about the Huntsman Center’s sold out crowd Thursday during Utah’s 75-59 win over Stanford, center Dallin Bachynski brought up family.

“One of the biggest things Coach [Krystkowiak] talks about is family and we feel like everyone in the stands is part of our family,” he said.

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It was quite the family gathering, as Utah had its first sell-out since 2005 with 15,018 fans settled in to watch the Utes run by the Cardinal.

But though the fans in attendance caused Utah’s home arena to be the loudest its been all season, it was another fan, another family member if you will, that made the biggest impact in the Utes victory.

“Even people who are watching from away and can’t be here [are family],” Bachynski said. “One specific individual Britt Shipp. He had a bad accident, and just to know so many people are out there caring about us and watching us, just helps us.”

Last fall Britton Shipp, the 16-year-old brother of Utah softball player Autumn Shipp, was involved in an ATV accident that left him in a coma. He is slowly recovering, regaining movement and ability, and the Utes – from the softball team to the basketball team – have used his fight as inspiration.

And Bachynski played inspired against Stanford. With starting center Jakob Poeltl struggling with foul trouble, Bachynski had a season-high 13 points and six rebounds and threw in a couple memorable moments at the end of the first half. On one possession, Bachynski beat the shot clock with a baseline jumper, and moments later was at it again, beating the halftime horn with a desperation floater.

The two buzzer-beaters helped give the Utes a six-point advantage going into halftime and more importantly, the momentum. That momentum probably found its way to Britt’s hospital bed.

Call it stupid, but sports really do reach beyond final scores. They go much further than accolades, money and championships. Sports are full of inspiration. The tales of teams dedicating seasons to a fan battling for his life through sickness, the stories of squads bringing a community together and the narratives of overcoming obstacle after obstacle to accomplish a goal, all mean so much more than just who won a game.

Bachynski had every right after his performance to boast about his own performance, instead he talked about his team, his fan family and of a boy sitting in a hospital bed cheering the Utes on.

And such acts of caring is starting to become the normal standard for these Utes.

They’ve taken Deputy Athletic Director Kyle Brennan’s son Mac, who is battling Leukemia, under their wing. They’ve dedicated this season to assistant coach Andy Hill’s father, Rick, who is fighting a brain tumor. And now they are helping to inspire a young man who had a terrible accident.

If this is the kind of culture that Krystkowiak is building, please sign me up for decades more. We have seen some terrible things coming out of athletics in the recent years, from rape charges to murders to lies and on and on and on. It’s refreshing to see a program caring about the right things.

The Utes may be exceeding on the court, but they’re excelling far more off it.

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@millerjryan