Dec. 3, 2012
Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak
“I want to start by talking about Coach Majerus. Coach is from the Milwaukee area. I played there for five years and coached there for three years, and I saw him at so many of our practices and training camps. I’m deeply saddened by his passing as we all are. When I think of Coach Majerus, [he was the] definition of basketball junkie. You talk about his organization, for him it was eat, sleep, drink basketball. The relationships inside of his basketball team were just an extension of his family. It was very important to him, whichever team he was with. I have talked to countless people who have played for him and coached with him, and Rick did it his way. He wasn’t interested in making everyone happy, but if you were in his circle, in that basketball fraternity that he was part of, he had a special way to touch everybody. We talked about it in practice yesterday. Obviously, some of the players we have here now were in diapers when he was here. But I can’t help but think about him, walking in and out of that office, walking up and down the staircase to get to the [Huntsman Center] floor, walking right outside where he used to park his car. Who could possibly coach a basketball team and live at a Marriott? It’s just classic to me that he wanted to be near the campus, didn’t want the confusion of rent or anything. He was the leader in the world for Marriott points. He just did it his way and told it like it was.
“It’s really odd for me, as I’m getting older I don’t remember my dreams. But it was maybe three weeks ago, I had the most vivid dream of Coach Majerus, perfectly healthy. The dream, to me, lasted a couple of hours. We spent the whole afternoon together in this dream. I don’t remember the nature of it or what it was all about, but it wasn’t long after that I talked to Dr. Hill and Jon Huntsman and some other people and said ‘let’s bring him back and let’s honor him.’ I fly all over the country recruiting and doing various things I will run into people wearing my Utah gear and it’s unbelievable how many people want to know where Rick is. They remember him. He is the prime character in the Utah basketball book. If you think of Utah Basketball, he is the first name that comes to mind. I have a lot of respect for Andrew Bogut, Andre Miller, Keith Van Horn and all of those guys, but I’m sure they would agree that Rick Majerus is a big part of the definition of Utah Basketball.
Q: How big is this week for your team as far as taking the next step in the progression of playing better competition?
“It’s huge, it really looks like conference season has started in terms of quality of play. Boise State is an absolute machine. Leon Rice has done a great job coaching them up there. These next two opponents, offensively I think they’re in the top 20 in the country with what they do, and that’s no exaggeration. They can flat-out shoot it and run and execute. We’re going to have our hands full. We haven’t seen this kind of offensive firepower yet this season. Our defensive stats are pretty good, but our offense is behind our defense. But again, we haven’t played this kind of offensive team. It will be a huge challenge for us to guard, early in the clock and late in the clock. And obviously Saturday night [at BYU], we will be in a hostile environment.”
Q: Going to back to Rick, previous coaches at Utah have had a hard time living up to the standard he set. Do you feel the responsibility to live up to that?
“I have always tried to control what I can control. I respect the heck out of Rick, but I don’t feel any pressure. It’s a different set of circumstances, a different league, a different era. It’s a great blueprint to try to follow, but there is certainly no pressure for us. We just tried to get a little better yesterday and we’re going to try to do the same thing today, and that’s what it’s all about. We’ll count up the wins and losses when it’s all said and done. But I can assure you and our fans and everyone that while wins and losses are important, our guys are getting better. They’re getting better in the classroom, better in the community and better as basketball players. We’re going to represent the program in grand fashion. I don’t think anyone is going to live up to Rick Majerus and that’s not one of my goals. It’s a whole other time period and what he did is etched in stone. It should be put up here on a plaque and it’s really beyond words what he did basketball-wise. So I think a guy would just be chasing his tail if he tried to keep up with Rick Majerus.”
Q: Switching back to Boise State, can you talk about some of the things they’ve done this season and what you know about [Derrick Marks], their leading scorer?
“Marks is a big piece to their puzzle. He had 16 straight points at Creighton. I watched the Creighton game on the road on the way back from our trip to San Marcos. When he hit his first eight or 10 points in a row everyone on their bench was going crazy. Then when he hit his 12th, 14th in a row, no one on the bench even got up, everyone was just flabbergasted. And he scored in a variety of different ways. The one thing that was neat about watching it was they just kept putting the ball in his hands. His teammates were willing to just let him ride the hot hand. And they’ve done that with various guys. So Marks was the lead character that night, but they have guys at every position who can carry that load. And I think that’s the sign of a good team. They’re not trying to necessarily do it a certain way, but they can read the game, the match-ups, and who has the hot hand. I think that’s an example of a veteran team. It’s good basketball. They could very easily be undefeated and they’ve played some tough games on the road. It’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Q: Talk about the rivalry with BYU
“I love these college rivalries. What’s happening for college basketball right now, with the Big East breaking up and other leagues breaking up, suddenly you don’t have these rivalries any more. We experienced that in the Big Sky Conference at Montana on a smaller level, when Boise left, Idaho left, Nevada-Reno left, and those were some rivalries that went on for 20 years that were just priceless. It’s a great rivalry between BYU and Utah. It’s maybe not as deeply-rooted in some of our players, but it certainly will be for the kids who grew up in Utah. We’re familiar with it and what it means. It will be a hostile environment, and as fun as it gets. If you’re not excited about the opportunity and not as geared up as you have been all season, then you better check out and find another business. So we don’t under-value it at all, but we’re not going to over-value it and make it something it’s not either. At the end of the day, it’s going to be about making plays. Trying to make it bigger than it is probably isn’t the approach we want to have.”
Q: What did you see in Texas last week that you liked or didn’t like moving forward?
“We started the SMU game off pretty strong. We found out that our offense is behind the defense. We played a physical team in SMU on the road. It was a little more physical and we’re not always going get the foul, and we didn’t respond very well. But it was right there in front of us. It’s easy to get back to the hotel room and try to figure out how it went from 39-39 to 52-41. It’s not like we’re trying to reinvent the wheel. If you can’t handle pressure at this position and you try to make a pass over there off-balance, it’s not going to work. So it’s coachable moments that we can get better at. What we need to do in practice is create more of that pressure. We don’t always play defense extending at 25 feet and making it difficult for teams, so you get in a little bit of a comfort zone playing a certain way. We saw even a ramped-up version at Texas State. It was even more of a scramble. They use their athleticism to try to turn you over and I thought we responded pretty well. We had a pretty strong film session in San Marcos when we got there, we had a spirited practice and a nice short shootaround, and our guys came out focused. We didn’t turn it over as many times as we could have in that game. It was nice to get a road win, go back to the hotel and feel good about what you accomplished, but it’s short-lived. We have to go on to another tough week. But it was good to get that miniature monkey off our back, knowing we can win on the road.”