Larry Krystkowiak: Great Coach With Some Head-Scratching Late-Game DecisionsPosted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014
First things first: the job Larry Krystkowiak has done at Utah has been absolutely remarkable. This team had by far the worst assemblage (or lack thereof) of talent in major conference basketball just a couple years back. He’s scrambled to remake this roster from the smoking ruins that his predecessor Jim Boylen left behind, and he has done a terrific job, so much so that this year (and well ahead of schedule) he’s got his Utes not just very competitive but fun to watch. With a roster that will likely return its most valuable players and with more talent due in the Huntsman Center next year (and likely beyond that), the future that Krystkowiak is constructing in Salt Lake City is bright indeed. What’s more, he’s a terrific coach who gets the most out of the talent that he’s cobbled together and he’s a great game-planner. Fill in whatever other compliments you would like to heap on Krystkowiak here – he’s a fine dresser; his breath probably smells like peaches and his hair like roses; he’s a crime-stopping, upstanding citizen – yes, all this and more is probably true.
But, man, did he screw up the end of that game last night against Oregon. Twice.
Credit where credit is due: He kept his squad fighting when it looked like the Ducks were going to pull away, and he was right there with his team, scrapping and scraping to get his team in a position to take home a W in the conference opener. But, let’s start in regulation.
- Damyean Dotson hits a couple of free throws to tie the game at 62 with 27 seconds left. Krystkowiak calls a timeout to set up the final play for his team. That play, apparently, is to inbound the ball into the corner against the Oregon press where Brandon Taylor is forced to call another timeout for the Utes with 25 seconds left, leaving them with one remaining. Utah’s Coach K draws up another play in the timeout, which is get the ball into the frontcourt, screw around until there are seven seconds remaining, and then call their final timeout.
Ok, whatever. Sure, you’ve backed yourself into a corner where if you have trouble inbounding the ball against a pressuring Oregon defense, you’re in danger of turning the ball over and letting the Ducks be the team with the final shot at the hoop. And sure, seven seconds may be plenty of time for an NBA player to dribble into a good shot. But you’ve only really got one guy on the team – point guard Delon Wright – who has shown a consistent ability to create his own shot, even if sometimes that shot is a somewhat shaky jumper. Still, inbound to Wright, let him create a good shot and maybe get a chance at a tip-in at the buzzer, right? Well, minus the paragraph explaining the fact that Dana Altman is a very good coach as well, suffice it to say that Oregon knew the ball was going to Wright too, forced him to catch the ball 40 feet away from the hoop, doubled (or tripled?) him as he approached the three-point line (in part because of an ill-advised ball screen that Wright didn’t need), and made him choose between giving the ball up and taking a really tough three. Wright is a mighty fine basketball player and he ducked through the double-team and somehow found Jordan Loveridge, a mighty fine basketball player in his own right, for a surprisingly good look at the buzzer. Still, it went awry.
Now, fast-forward five entertaining, well-played minutes of overtime later and Krystkowiak’s team is in a quite similar position.
- Dotson again ties the game up, this time on a driving reverse layup with 33 seconds left. This time, Utah only has one timeout left, so Wright dribbles into the frontcourt, eventually gives up the ball to Taylor again, who stands there 40 feet from the hoop as the game clock winds down to seven seconds before Utah calls a timeout. So, still. It’s not great that you’ve got to inbound the ball against that Oregon defense with no remaining timeout, but whatever. Same plan, right? Get the ball to Wright, maybe clear things out for him so a ball screen doesn’t bring an extra defender. But no. The plan is to run the offense through Dallin Bachynski? Huh? Inbound to Bachynski in the post and then trust him, with the clock running down, to find Loveridge in traffic in the lane? Bachynski had a fine game and everything – 11 points, 12 boards, a couple of blocks – but of all the guys you want to be the play-maker in that situation, Bachynski is not one of them. So what happens? Dotson steps in front of the pass, races the length of the court, dunks it with under a second left and the Ducks steal a game that should have, at the very least, been going to a second overtime.
Again, Krystkowiak has assembled quite a fine team, he coached them up well over non-conference play, and he put together an excellent game plan for a tough conference opponent. Great guy, great coach. But last night was not his finest moments in these end-of-the-game scenarios.