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Utah Basketball Head Coach Big Board: Who Replaces Larry Krystkowiak?

Rudy Gobert #27 of the Utah Jazz talks with assistant coach Alex Jensen during pre-game warm ups before their game against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Vivint Smart Home Arena on December 25, 2018 in Salt Lake City , Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – For the first time in 10 years, Utah basketball is looking for a new head coach after parting ways with Larry Krystkowiak on Tuesday.

Utah athletic director Mark Harlan released a statement, stating that he felt the program needed a new voice and change in leadership. Harlan will conduct a national search for the next head coach.

Here is some names that Mark Harlan could be reaching out to (in no particular order).

Potential Utah Basketball Head Coaching Candidates: Local Ties

Tommy Connor

When Larry Krystkowiak was hired in 2011, Tommy Connor was hired to his staff right away. He left his head coaching job at Westminster College to be on the coaching staff with Krystkowiak. Connor has a lot of quality experience as a coach and a player. He was a star player for Rick Majerus from 1986-88, 90. Then he was an assistant coach under Majerus from 1994-97.

Connor has learned a lot about the game from some of the best coaches and has been a head coach himself. It would be worth talking to Connor about his vision of the program.

Mark Pope

Pope is a rising star in the coaching business. He revived Utah Valley and turned them into a respectable program in the WAC and produced some talented players from 2015-19. In two seasons at BYU, he has led the Cougars to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. As a player, he was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year at Washington before winning an NCAA title with Kentucky.

I don’t think it’s very realistic that Pope would take the Utah job if offered because he could very well be holding out for a job in the SEC or ACC. Although, Utah is an upgrade to BYU because of conference affiliation, facilities, etc., it’s more likely that Pope would leave BYU for a particular job.

Craig Smith

Like Pope, Smith is a rising star in the profession. Since becoming the head coach at South Dakota beginning in 2014, it looks like all Smith does is win. When he arrived in Logan, he quickly revived the Aggies basketball program and led the team to three straight Mountain West Tournament Championship game appearances, including two titles.

Smith has quickly adjusted to recruiting on the west coast and is bound to take a job at a higher level program sooner rather than later. He will be in consideration for the vacant job at Minnesota but he should be strongly considered for the job at Utah.

Alex Jensen

If I am the athletic director at Utah and looking for a head coach, my first call would be to Alex Jensen. His stock in the coaching profession as skyrocketed and doing it at the highest level of the sport. He is the right hand man to one of the best teams in the NBA in Quin Snyder and the Utah Jazz.

His ties to the Utah basketball program and the NBA is very strong and would attract a lot of recruits. If Jensen is willing to take the head coaching job at Utah, it would be his to lose. The problem is that Jensen could hold out for a job in the NBA as a head coach, forcing him to pass on this opportunity.

Johnnie Bryant

Just like Jensen, Bryant is a rising star that will get a head coaching job sooner rather than later. He started his career as a player development coach for the Utah Jazz before moving up the ranks. Now, he is the associate head coach of the New York Knicks, who are having a solid season in the NBA.

Also like Jensen, not sure what the interest level is for Johnnie Bryant to be a head coach in college or if he would rather wait until an NBA opportunity came up.

Chris Burgess

After a successful career as a player in college at Duke and Utah, Burgess had a long playing career professionally overseas. Then he started coaching when he was an assistant for Mark Pope at Utah Valley. He made the move with Pope to Provo and is in his second season at BYU. Burgess has ties to the west coast and is used to the recruiting rituals of college basketball. He has seen success everywhere he has gone both as a coach and player.

Burgess is a real possibility and would have lots of success if given the opportunity.

Potential Runnin’ Utes Head Coaching Candidates: National Names

Damon Stoudamire 

Stoudamire had a long and successful career in the NBA, playing for 13 years. Then he was an assistant coach in the league before going to the college ranks and back to the NBA. Now, he is the head coach at Pacific and has been in Stockton, California since 2016.

His experience in the NBA and now in college will be appealing to Harlan. The Tigers won 11 games in his first season as the head coach before winning 14 games in each of the next two years. His best season was 2019-20 when they won 23 games. If Utah wants to go the national route, Stoudamire should be in consideration.

Niko Medved

After stints at Furman and Drake, Niko Medved has been successful at Colorado State in his second season. The Rams just missed the NCAA Tournament and will be playing in the NIT. He is a young and energetic coach that could bring a different style of basketball to Salt Lake City.

Earl Watson 

Watson has done it all in his career except for one thing. Be the head coach of a college basketball team. He played at a Pac-12 school in UCLA before spending 13 years in the NBA. Then he was an assistant coach in the G-League before making the move to the Phoenix Suns and getting promoted to head coach of the franchise in 2016.

Watson is currently an analyst for the Pac-12 Network, so he knows the conference. His analysis of the game is unique and insightful. He would be a tremendous hire for the Utes.

Leon Rice

Rice has seen success in his stops as a coach. He started in 1989 as an assistant coach with Oregon. Then he went to Northern Colorado, Yakima Valley CC before spending 12 years as an assistant for Gonzaga. He was named the head coach of Boise State in 2010. The Broncos were just outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble and was picked to win the league this year. Boise State is known as a football school but Rice is doing everything possible to change it to a basketball university.

Lorenzo Romar

This might be a stretch but it’s still possible. Romar played in the Pac-12 back in the late 70s before spending five years in the NBA. He started as an assistant coach for UCLA in 1992. His first head coaching job was at Pepperdine from 1996-99. After stops in Saint Louis, Washington and Arizona (Associate HC), Romar is back with the Wave in Mailbu. Pepperdine finished third in the WCC this season, which is powered by Gonzaga and BYU. He led Washington to 7 NCAA Tournament appearances in 15 seasons at the helm in Seattle.

He can coach and recruit on the west coast and would be a good fit for the Utes.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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