Las Vegas » Coach Jim Boylen already had tears in his eyes by the time he reached the scorer's table for his radio interview after his Utah Utes won the Mountain West Conference men's basketball tournament on Saturday. When guard Lawrence Borha spoke during the post-game news conference about how much Boylen has meant to him, the coach closed his eyes and wiped away more tears.
And when he faced a direct question about what the title meant to him, personally, the floodgates really opened.
Overcome with emotion, Boylen sat silent on the podium for what seemed like forever, reporters watching and cameras rolling as he blinked away tears, sniffled and tried to gather the composure to answer. Finally, after 58 long seconds, he asked for another question and promised to come back to the previous one.
When he did, he said it was gratifying "to see these guys grow. I was very hard on this group of guys, from day one -- in school, off the floor."
Boylen then launched into touching soliloquies about each of the three seniors who have been with the Utes for four years, watching the program wither to its lowest depths in a quarter-century before helping turn it around into the NCAA Tournament team that it is now.
He recalled how Borha cut his once-braided hair -- "I always tell him he became a human being, instead of a cartoon character," he said -- accepted a role as a defensive stopper and "became a teammate." He noted how center Luke Nevill "was a member of the team, but he wasn't a teammate" when Boylen arrived two years ago, and worked hard to play tougher and improve the once-distant relationship with his teammates in order to earn their trust on the floor.
And he talked about how forward Shaun Green sacrificed his role as a three-year starter to come off the bench in an effort to avoid joining Borha and Nevill as the only four-year players in decades to leave Utah with a losing record.
"He wasn't a winner," Boylen said.
Then, with the news conference winding down, the tears returned. "Now," Boylen said with another sniff, "he's a winner."