Ray Giacoletti was named Utah's new head coach last March.
Oct. 5, 2004
A new era in Utah basketball began on March 31, 2004 when Ray Giacoletti was named the 13th head coach in the program's history. As he embarks on his first season at Utah, Giacoletti takes over the 10th-winningest program in the history of college basketball.
Giacoletti has a 117-83 career record in seven seasons as a head coach and has never had a losing season. Before coming to the U., Giacoletti went 69-50 in four seasons at Eastern Washington. He led Eastern to its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth in 2004.
It has been a frenetic six months for Giacoletti and his staff since they came on board. With the start of fall practice quickly approaching, Coach Giac took time out of his busy schedule to share some of his thoughts on basketball, life, and coaching the Runnin' Utes.
Q: It has to have been a whirlwind lifestyle for you and your staff since you took over in late March. What have the first six months on the job been like?
A: It's been hectic, but we've been very fortunate in that we've been able to get some things done, starting with Marc Jackson's return and Andrew Bogut coming back for his sophomore year. Those are things that will help us be successful in this first year. In recruiting, we were obviously a little bit behind, but we've made strides in the right direction with getting a couple of commitments for the November early signing period. We've had the chance to get to know the players and vice versa, and we've been able to make sure they're all on the same page as us. So, it's been hectic, but it's been good. I'm happy with the progress we've made so far.
Q: What attracted you to the head coaching position at the University of Utah?
A: Utah has a great basketball tradition. It's a place that experienced great success even before Coach Majerus arrived. It's regarded as one of the premier jobs on the West Coast and coming here was kind of a no-brainer. It's a great opportunity and we're excited to be here.
Q: How did you get into coaching?
A: I played college basketball, and when I was a junior and senior I started thinking about what would be the best way for me to stay in college athletics, and especially in basketball. Then I started working basketball camps all over the country. It just seemed like coaching was kind of the next logical choice. Coaching's not something you do to just kind of try it out. You need to go at it 100 percent or not at all. Even with the all rules in place for what can and can't do throughout year, whether it's recruiting or work during the season, it basically consumes your life. It was something at a young age that I kind of focused on and felt committed to, and now I'm starting my 19th year in college basketball. I feel very lucky to have been in it this long, and to now be here at Utah. We're going to work our butts off, make the most of it, and have some fun in the process.
Q: What is your blueprint for maintaining Utah's great basketball tradition?
A: The program has been very successful by winning conference championships. That's the first thing that hopefully we're able to sustain. Once you do that other avenues open up, such as playing in the NCAA Tournament and hopefully advancing. But there are steps you need to take care of before you get to those second steps, so our focus is going to be on winning the conference.
Q: What will Utah basketball under Ray Giacoletti look like in terms of the style of play?
A: Everything starts at the defensive end of the floor. We try to set goals with everything we do. If we can get stops or create turnovers defensively, then we want to get out and run and have the opportunity to get easy baskets. We won't run on made field goals. We want to run, but it has to start with getting it done on the defensive end first.
Q: Will you employ a full-court press?
A: We like to extend the floor 94 feet in our man-to-man defense; so I think you'll see a lot of that. We'll trap in a deadball or made free throw situation. We're going to try to change tempo when we need to in order to give ourselves a chance to get easy baskets.
Q: On the offensive end are you perimeter oriented, low-post oriented, or do you strive for a balance?
A: I think there will be a balance of the two. Obviously with Andrew (Bogut) here for another year, he needs to touch the ball on every possession. The ball needs to go through him. You want to establish the inside game, and that will hopefully help open things up on the perimeter. You saw what happened with Team USA in the Olympics. They put up a bunch of three-pointers to start games and didn't have a whole lot of success with it. The ball needs to go inside first, and then out.
Q: When you're talking to a prospective student-athlete, what do you tell them about you, your staff, and your goals for the Utah program?
A: We're a young, energetic staff that has great experience. Each one of our coaches has been successful at various levels of college basketball. Utah is a place with great tradition and history, and the facilities that we have on campus are second to none. There's a host of advantages and opportunities here. The most important thing is we want to keep the best players in the state here at the University of Utah. But with where we're located, I think we're going to be able to recruit the entire West region.
Q: What's your approach to developing student-athletes, both on and off the court?
A: We want to be a part of three areas of a young man's life: as a person, as a student, and as a basketball player. Those are the three facets that we concentrate on and try to help them develop. We use a notebook system that the players have with them 24 hours a day to help keep them organized academically, in basketball and socially. If a young man is doing well in all three of those areas of his life, then he's going to optimize his level of success. If one area has some issues or some problems, it's going to bring down the other two. So we work to make sure the student-athlete is excelling in all of those areas.
Q: Since your first day on the job, you have stressed the importance of building relationships. Why is that so important to you?
A: Anything we do in life, it boils down to relationships. If you have good relationships with people and have built trust, you're going to work harder in those situations. Basketball is no different than anything else in life or any business that you're in. Our staff has an open door policy with all of our players, and we want to develop great relationships with them to help them as people, students and basketball players. It's the way that we want to do things. We try to create a family environment. My wife and I don't have any children. Our team is our family. That's the environment we want to try to create.
Q: Does Salt Lake City feel like home yet?
A: It does feel like home. For various reasons it took until the first part of August for my wife and I to both get here and really get settled. I was gone most of the month of July recruiting. But now that we're both here, it does feel like home. The people are great. It's one of the prettier cities I've ever lived in, and we've lived in some pretty good places. This place is special, and I think it's a well-kept secret unless you've been here for a while. There is an array of things to do from the outdoors to various other activities. I'm just amazed by the overall beauty of the city and the surrounding area.