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Year No. 9 at Utah full of success so far for Larry Krystkowiak

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Posted at 9:24 PM, Dec 25, 2019

SALT LAKE CITY -- Success seems to follow Larry Krystkowiak everywhere he goes.

This season is no exception.

Krystkowiak, who is currently in his ninth season as the head men's basketball coach at the University of Utah, currently has the Utes at 9-3 and coming off of a 69-66 victory over then-No. 6 Kentucky on Dec. 18 in Las Vegas. Though Utah lost to then-No. 20 San Diego State last Saturday, the Utes are trending in the right direction behind the Montana native as they aim to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.

For the 6-foot-10 Krystkowiak, success with Utah isn't anything new. But the road wasn't always easy as Krystkowiak took over right as Utah was transitioning from the Mountain West Conference to the Pac-12.

"It's hard to believe this is Year 9," Krystkowiak recently told MTN Sports. "I got the job right when we moved into the Pac-12 so that was all new to me, and I think we went through a few years of trying to get our bearings and learning how to survive and that was pretty consistent with all sports. Football, everybody short of gymnastics, everybody really had to take a step up and then some of the recruiting and things, so we talked about survival initially. Then a number of years where you're trying to compete and now I think we're all in the mindset that you have to win and compete for championships."

And that's just what the Utes are doing now.

Born in Missoula, Krystkowiak was raised in Shelby before ultimately moving back to the Garden City where he finished out his high school basketball career at Big Sky High. Krystkowiak eventually played in college at Montana where he is still the program's all-time leader in total points (2,017) and rebounds (1,105). He is the only player in program history to have 2,000 career points as well as 1,000 career rebounds.

From there, Krystkowiak spent nine seasons in the NBA as a player before ultimately getting some assistant coaching gigs and his first head coaching job with the Idaho Stampede in 2003-04. He then came back to Missoula and was the head coach at Montana for two seasons in 2005-06 where he led the Grizzlies to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. In 2006, UM defeated Nevada in the opening round of the tournament, which is the last time Montana's men's basketball team has won an NCAA Tournament game.

The next season Krystkowiak jumped to the NBA as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and was later named head coach with 18 games to go in the season. He also was Milwaukee's head coach in 2007-08.

Krystkowiak landed at Utah in 2011 where he's been ever since. He's guided the Utes to NCAA Tournament appearances in 2015 and 2016. In 2015 Utah made the Sweet 16 and in 2016 made the second round. The Utes have finished in the top five in the conference the past five seasons.

With success comes nicer facilities and better recruits, but Krystkowiak says it all stems from the culture and personnel involved with the program. The world-class facilities don't hurt, either.

"That sure is some great frosting on the cake when you've got a solid group of people and players that you get to coach and then you get to come to some world-class facilities," Krystkowiak said. "I mean, we've got NBA teams and different people that are coming to take a look at our facility and kind of copying some of the blueprint, so I feel very fortunate and blessed to be a part of it."

While Krystkowiak has been away from Montana, he's also been away from his family with a kid in college on the East Coast. However, one of his sons, Luc, is beginning his college career alongside his dad as a freshman on the basketball team.

"It's awesome and sometimes I forget. Sometimes I come into practice, film session, and it's a bonus to get to see one of your kids on a daily basis," Krystkowiak said. "I've got another one who is off at Dartmouth, which you don't see him very often. Love them all dearly and it's neat to have somebody right there who is going through it and a part of it. Makes it pretty special."

Coach Krystkowiak is finding a ton of success at Utah but he said when his time with basketball is said and done he knows where he wants to be and that's right back in the Treasure State.

"It's such an awesome place," Krystkowiak said. "I spent my entire childhood and growing up and college in Montana and it's a special place. I hope when it's all said and done to get back up to Flathead Lake on a regular basis. I love the people and (have) great friends."