Is Utah MBB head coach Larry Krystkowiak overpaid or worth every dollar?

Ryan Kostecka

On April 3, 2011, it was announced that Larry Krystkowiak was going to be the new head coach of the Utah Utes mens basketball program. 

After a six-year career as an assistant coach in the NBA, Krystkowiak elected to leave the professional ranks to take a chance running his own Division-I college program, and Utah was more than happy to have a successful coach lead them into the their reign in the Pac-12.

Since that day in April, Krystkowiak has gone 171-126 (.576 winning percentage) and 75-75 in conference play in his nine years at the helm. Then following the 2014-15 season when Krystkowiak led the Utes to their first Sweet-16 since the previous decade, he agreed to a new contract in 2016 that rewarded him handsomely following back-to-back NCAA tournament berths.

But that was the last time the Utes would be a part of March Madness, as they went to the NIT following the 2017 and 2018 seasons — Utah finished as runner-up during that 2018 season.

Following that 2018 season it was made public that Krystkowiak, who was making $3.39 million per season, was the eighth highest paid basketball coach in the country, and No. 2 in the Pac-12. But after the past two seasons that have resulted in no postseason berths Krystkowiak is still the conference's second-highest paid coach at $3.76 million during the 2020 season.

UCLA head coach Mitch Cronin is the Pac-12's highest-paid coach at $5.50 million per season, while Arizona's Sean Miller and Oregon's Dana Altman without a doubt the most successful coaches of the past decade, rank second and third respectively at $3.25 and $3.1 million per season.

This begs the question as to whether or not Krystkowiak is overpaid or still worth the money?

The Utes have yet to win a Pac-12 regular season or conference championship under Krystkowiak, finishing in a tie for second in 2014-15 as the best result. Ever since signing that contract in 2016, Utah had three straight 11-7 seasons before finishing 7-11 this past season.

But the Utes have also seen numerous players declare for the NBA draft early or transfer from the program — numbers that are around the top of the conference.  

When combining the revolving door on Utah's program with the lack of trophies, despite putting college players into the NBA, it's hard to justify that sort of spending for a coach who has delivered mediocre results — as evidenced by the .500 winning percentage in Pac-12 play.

While there is NO reason to expect that Krystkowiak will be fired or won't be coaching next season, it should be noted that the Utes are set up for success next season. 

Conference big wigs Oregon and UCLA are going through a transition phase while the rest of the teams who finished in the top half of the Pac-12 all have holes to fill. The Utes were one of the youngest teams last season but just got good news with the return of all-Pac-12 performer Timmy Allen.

There has been a lot of speculation of late regarding the turnover in the Utah program, with many players declaring for the draft early when not ready and eventually transferring out — exactly what Both Gach did. But getting Allen to return signifies that Krystkowiak can keep his stars happy and it should provide a major boost moving forward in the recruiting world.

Allen is coming off an impressive sophomore season in which he was named second-team all-Pac-12 after averaging 17.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. While his production drastically rose from his freshman season, Allen's shooting percentages dropped dramatically as he shot 44.1% from the field and 21.1% from three-point territory.

Most importantly, his return gives Utah a very strong returning nucleus when paired with rising sophomores in point guard Rylan Jones and big man Branden Carlson and sharp-shooter Alfonso Plummer — who broke the Pac-12 tournament and single game record with 11 made three-pointers in a game and averaged 18.9 points over the final six games of the season. Add in valuable bench pieces in Riley Battin, Mikael Jantunen and Jaxon Brenchley and the Pac-12's No. 6 ranked class and things are looking up in Salt Lake City.

This is going to be a huge season for Krystkowiak and his future with the Utes.If Utah can return to the top-four of the conference standings, he may be safe, But anything less than that and Utah athletic director Mark Harlan may have a tough decision ahead of him.

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