Let’s Speculate! Potential Utah head basketball coach candidates
Welcome to Let’s Speculate! on Coaches Database, where we go through programs that are or may soon be looking for a new head coach and speculate who they may hire next.
Today’s program is Utah, coached by Larry Krystkowiak for the last ten seasons (fired on March 17).
- Craig Smith – Utah State head coach
- A rising star in the college basketball world, Smith has won at every stop as a head coach so far. In three years at Utah State, he has won a Mountain West title (2019), two Mountain West Tournaments (2019/2020) and earned at-large NCAA bid (2021). While at South Dakota, he led the Coyotes to their first-ever Summit League title and NIT bid back in 2017. At Mayville State, he went to three NAIA Tournaments in three years, including a National Runner-up finish in 2007. Smith is a Minnesota-native that will likely be on the short list for the Gophers’ job opening, but Utah presents a great opportunity and allows Smith to keep things rolling in the Beehive State.
- Leon Rice – Boise State head coach
- Another name that pops up whenever a Pac-12 job opens is Rice’s, and for good reason. He has done a great job at Boise State, winning 20+ games eight times in eleven seasons at the helm and leading the Broncos to two NCAA Tournaments and three NITs. Rice was a long-time Gonzaga assistant who is originally from Richland, WA and played at Washington State. The other home state school, Washington, may be looking for a head coach soon and Rice could wait that out. But a Pac-12 job is a Pac-12 job and it might be tough for Rice to pass up of the offer is made.
- Tommy Connor – Utah associate head coach
- It’s not necessarily the traditional power conference route to fire a head coach and then replace him with one of his assistants, but Connor is a uniquely qualified prospect in this situation. He’s been at Utah for the last 10 years working under Krystkowiak, the last seven as associate head coach, but he also played for the Utes in the early 90s and then served as a graduate manager and assistant coach for several seasons under Rick Majerus. In between stints at his alma mater, Connor also spent 12 years as the head coach at NAIA Westminster College in SLC, where he won seven Frontier Conference titles and was a five-time league COY.
- Alex Jensen – Utah Jazz assistant coach
- Utah looked to the NBA for their last head coach, pulling Krystkowiak from the Nets despite having no direct ties to the school. Jensen, on the other hand, is a Utah-native who was a star player for the Utes in the late 90s under Rick Majerus. After a pro career overseas, he spent four years on Majerus’ staff at Saint Louis (2007-11) and then got some head coaching experience with the Canton Charge of the NBA D-League (2011-13). Jensen has been back in his home state working with the Jazz organization since 2013 and definitely carries name recognition within the program and fanbase.
- Porter Moser – Loyola (IL) head coach
- When you look through former Majerus guys, there isn’t anyone who has had more success in the last decade as Moser. He never worked at Utah but spent four years on Majerus’ staff at Saint Louis (including one as associate head coach) before getting the Loyola job in 2011. We think Moser is perhaps better suited for other major conference jobs in the Midwest, but Utah has money to spend and could pull him out West for the first time in his career. We don’t need to go through the credentials: Moser can coach.
- Damon Stoudamire – Pacific head coach
- The Arizona job still hasn’t opened up but the situation there is still very much up in the air. While Stoudamire is definitely a qualified candidate for any Pac-12 job, there is concern that he would either pass on it or end up leaving after just a year or whenever Arizona does come calling. Either way, Stoudamire is primed to make the move up to the high-major level in the next several years after the job he has done at Pacific and the name recognition he carries in the basketball world.