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December 24, 2012With so much emphasis on the process of fitting the new pieces of the Utah basketball team together over the course of the last two seasons, little attention has been paid to the same process that Utah coaching staff has undergone in that same time-span.
Even for experienced, consummate professionals, coming together as a brand new staff is at the very least, an adjustment. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak and assistant coach Andy Hill have history together at Krystkowiak's alma mater, Montana, from 2004-2006.
The Grizzlies enjoyed a 42-20 combined record in that time span, and reached the NCAA tournament both seasons.
"I started with Andy [Hill], because I'd had that previous experience and comfort level with him," recalled Krystkowiak. "I knew what his strengths were, and thought they were a good balance with mine."
After Hill, Krystkowiak sought out candidates that had different strengths, and ones he thought would compliment those of his own, and of Hill's.
"From there, I kind of looked for coaches with other strengths, not so much like mine or Andy's," Krystkowiak revealed. "I was looking for personalities, skills and strengths that helped to complete the rest of the puzzle. I was looking for the right fit."
Completing the puzzle for Krystkowiak were Tommy Connor and DeMarlo Slocum.
"I think that both [Connor] and [Slocum] each are impressive in terms of what they bring to the table," Krystkowiak commented. "When you combine it all, I think we are a well-rounded staff who are working well together and kind of clicking."
Like separate moving parts, functioning to one end, each member of the coaching staff works independently at times, and very much together in others.
Unofficially the staff's strongest recruiter, DeMarlo Slocum commented on the dynamics of the arrangement.
"With the circumstances of where we were when we started, for both coaches and players, we had to have guys who really wanted to be here. We knew rebuilding this thing from the ground up wasn't going to be easy, so we had to have a committed group of guys," Slocum observed about the earliest foundation of players and personnel.
While the Ute coaching staff were largely unfamiliar with one another, Slocum says the process has required some very basic, very key ingredients.
"We've just got to trust each other," he stated.
That trust is key in all facets of the job, but particularly as it applies to recruiting. Per NCAA regulations, the staff is limited to the number of visits allowed, as well as the number of staff out recruiting at any given time. As such, resources must be used wisely and visits planned carefully and only after arduous consideration.
"If I go see someone, [Krystkowiak]'s got to trust that the player is the right guy," Slocum explained. "Larry will see [the player] at some point, but we've all just got to that level of trust that our visits our spent wisely. We've all got to trust that we're all going out and recruiting the best fit."
While trust, particularly in the recruiting process is important, how the staff comes together in other areas is equally important. Slocum expanded on how those pieces do fit together.
"[Krystkowiak] speaks for himself. All of his experience at all levels, at the highest levels makes him so well-versed. His knowledge spans the entire game of basketball. He's done it all, and to have someone at the head with that knowledge and experience is just, priceless," he praised Krystkowiak.
On what Tommy Connor brings, Slocum had this to say:
"[Connor] has done it all, and also at a high level. I think he brings the expertise as an X and O guy. With his head coaching experience, I think he's there to kind of think of the details a head coach might think about," he continued. "[Connor] can handle that or address those things, sometimes when [Krystkowiak] can't when dealing with other things at the executive level. We all put our heads together, but [Connor] is kind of that expert that way."
Slocum next discussed his focus on recruiting, as a major role and area of responsibility on the staff, as he played a significant role in recruiting at Colorado State. Additionally, Slocum spent one year with the USC basketball program as Director of Player Personnel. The position gave giving him invaluable experience in the area as the person in the program primarily responsible for recruiting for the Trojans. More importantly, his long-standing presence in the West, Slocum has invaluable connections all over the Western United States, including Utah.
"[Slocum]'s background is strongly based in recruiting, and it is certainly one of his strengths," said Krystkowiak shortly after Slocum's officially announced that he would be joining Utah's staff,"He's very strong recruiting the Pac-12 footprint, and also in the State of Utah. Both things were an important factor in my decision to bring him on."
Slocum acknowledged the strength, one that he shares with Andy Hill.
"Coach Connor is also our detail guy. He's extremely detail-oriented, where maybe I'm not the most detailed. From a recruiting standpoint, me and Andy have kind of been the ones to do that," Slocum said. "Andy is just a very good guy who is also a very good coach. He's got that ability to connect with people and brings great energy to our team, and staff. He's got a great basketball mind and basketball IQ, so he has many strengths. Number one is that he is another one of our relationship guys."
So far, the staff seem to have clicked, due in part to the culture Krystkowiak has fostered early in his tenure.
"We're starting to figure out how to play off of each other, but I think we're doing a pretty good job. I think we're all comfortable in our roles, and where we fit on the staff. We're trusting each, and what we each bring to the table," Slocum furthered. "There are no egos here and each guy on the staff has something he's stronger in, and we have identified that and we pick each other up because our strengths are so well-balanced. We all meet, we all put our heads together - on everything. So it's kind of nice when you can come to an environment like that."
The environment of which Slocum spoke is one of respect and equality, which Slocum believes is the strong foundation of the new Utah Basketball program.
"I've been on other staffs before, and there's a definite pecking order. 1, 2 and 3.[At Utah], it isn't like that. We are all treated like equals here ," he explained. "When we look at all our combined strengths and combine them, we're one staff, not individuals. We look at it that way, and we all sit in on film, evaluate everything and we all put our heads together on everything we do. What we each bring, our different strengths, brings a different perspective to the process, and that makes the result stronger."