SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak will be the first to tell you his main role as a coach is to help his players develop on the court and win basketball games.
Krystkowiak also knows there’s more to it than Xs and Os, however, and wants his players to learn life lessons during their time as college basketball players.
“I do think there are things beyond basketball, and it is my responsibility and my coaches’ responsibility to teach guys,” he said. “The cool thing about this job is we have an opportunity to affect some people in other ways and help them get ready for life.”
Recently he referenced lessons he’s learned in church and books he’s read, and he shared those with his players. After Sunday night’s win, Krystkowiak talked about the message of a sermon in church earlier that morning to help inspire his team.
“The theme of the day was based on my church experience this morning, talking about how important it is to be connected,” he said. “They gave the example of sequoia trees, 300-foot trees that only have about 12 feet deep of a root ball. It’s not the height or depth of those trees that’s important. What keeps sequoias going is they’re all inter-wound under ground and connected.
“I thought that was a good message to hit our guys with. We may not have NBA guys and we might not be 300 feet tall, but we can get a lot done if we tie it in to each other and be connected.”
On Tuesday, Krystkowiak talked about “a little homework assignment” he gave his players to read a book called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.
Krystkowiak referenced three of the four — “be impeccable with your word,” “don’t make assumptions” and “always do your best” — while talking to the press (the fourth is “don’t take anything personally”).
“It’s pretty neat, it’s an easy read,” he said. “It’s really applicable and really hit home with me, and a number of our players took different parts and talked about it.”
KUZMANIA: Krystkowiak showed up Tuesday wearing a “Kuzmania” T-shirt he got the week before in Los Angeles, and he talked about why he thinks former Ute player Kyle Kuzma is averaging the same number of points (16.4) as an NBA rookie as he did last year at Utah.
He joked again about, “maybe his college coach held him back a bit,” but went on to talk about Kuzma’s hard work ethic and how his game fits the NBA game.
“When Kyle’s junior year was over and we're two months postseason, I saw him in the gym and he had improved,” he said. “Not many guys at the end of their junior year over the course of six or eight weeks improve like that.”
The Ute coach also talked about how Kuzma told him five years ago when he was being recruited, how he planned to be in the NBA and just how hard he worked to get there.
“He kept grinding and grinding and grinding and he improved,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s the classic example of someone that never quit believing in his abilities and what he wanted to do and knew he wanted to do it. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
UTE NOTES: The Utes play Arizona State Thursday night in Tempe and Arizona Saturday afternoon in Tucson. … Utah has won two straight games over ASU in Tempe, but hasn’t defeated the Wildcats in Tucson since 1986. … The Utes have five players averaging in double figures, led by Justin Bibbins at 14.2. Others are David Collette (12.9 ppg), Tyler Rawson (11.1 ppg), Sedrick Barefield (10.6 ppg) and Donnie Tillman (10.1 ppg). … Rawson went from 36 to 41 percent in 3-point percentage after his 6-for-7 night against Washington State on Sunday. … Bibbins ranks 17th in the nation in 3-point shooting at 46.4 percent, which is the second-best season percentage in Ute history.