Ray Giacoletti probably wasn't the University of Utah's first choice as its new basketball coach. He may not even have been the second or third.

But whether he was first in the pecking order isn't the most important question. It is this: Is he the right man?

What do I look like, Nostradamus?

The Utes hired Giacoletti Tuesday, ending two months of suspense as to who would replace Rick Majerus. Giacoletti — yeah — didn't I order some of that at Tucci's the other night?

A lot of Utah fans were hoping for a "name" coach. Lon Krueger, Byron Scott and Gonzaga's Mark Few were among those mentioned. Giacoletti isn't a household name. He's not even a garage name. Eastern Washington, where he coached until Tuesday, isn't exactly the center of the basketball universe. This year's trip to the NCAA Tournament was the first ever for the Eagles.

Nevertheless, he has won at two schools, EWU and North Dakota State.

He has also shown he could do a good job with leftovers that weren't recruited by Gonzaga, Washington State and Washington.

I admit I thought the Utes would attract a bigger name. Considering they have been to the NCAA Tournament nine times in 10 years, and won 10 conference championships in 14 years, it seemed a job several high-level coaches would want.

Beyond that, at a salary of near $500,000, and a total package that could approach $1 million, it should have attracted someone with a name, right?

Maybe not.

Nevada's Trent Johnson apparently wasn't interested. That could be because he coached here as an assistant under Lynn Archibald and didn't like something about it. It could be because he loves his job in Reno.

Maybe it's because he likes working for 40 percent of what he could make at Utah.

Most likely, though, it's because he knows his name will come up at a lot of other schools in future years.

Giacoletti does fit what seem to be athletic director Chris Hill's criteria. He has head coaching experience, is good with the media, fortyish and television pretty and a proven winner. He also loves defense and hard work.

"Work ethic needs to be at the top," he said before the season began. "I hope we would never be outworked by anybody. And we need discipline to do things a certain way. Those are the two things that every program wants to establish. We try to focus on those areas, and they are just as important in the classroom as on the basketball floor."

That sounds a lot like a certain fortyish up-and-coming coach who came to Utah 15 years ago.

It also sounds a lot like a basketball version of Urban Meyer. That's no coincidence.

So the Utes went with a low-profile choice. But to assume Giacoletti isn't as good as a "name" coaches is shortsighted. That's like saying the Big Mac is the world's best burger, simply because everyone's heard of it.

Plenty of fine basketball schools hire coaches from smaller programs. BYU has done nicely after hiring Steve Cleveland from Fresno City College. Utah State's Stew Morrill turned around Colorado State's basketball program, after moving from Montana. Bill Self went from Tulsa to Illinois to Kansas. Rick Pitino went from Providence to Kentucky. Mike Montgomery went from Montana to Stanford. Ben Howland went from Northern Arizona to Pitt to UCLA.

In a long-ago era, Dick Motta went from Weber State to the Chicago Bulls.

There's a reason most coaches step to a higher level — they're good.

Still, Giacoletti should memorize the expectations surrounding the Utah program: Utah should win or contend for the conference title most years and make the NCAA Tournament three-fourths of the time.

Beyond that, he should have a high graduation rate and rarely have players in trouble with the law. If they do get in trouble, he should deal with them quickly.

Much like the criteria for Meyer.

Oh, and one more thing: If he really wants to be popular at Utah, he should remember to beat BYU. Often.

Meyer has that part figured out already.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com