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Coming off its first Sweet 16 berth since the previous decade, the Utah men's basketball team now has its head coach under contract into the next one.
Utah athletics announced a contract extension for Larry Krystkowiak, who led the Utes into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in his fourth season. The new deal will keep Krystkowiak through the 2022-23 season and pays $2.4 million per year, according to a Utah athletics release, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in the Pac-12.
The deal comes just shy of a year since Krystkowiak's previous extension in April 2014, when he signed a contract worth an announced average of $1.4 million per year with incentives and annual percentage increases that kicked up the overall value. Krystkowiak made $1.5 million in base salary last season.
But that was before Krystkowiak guided Utah to a 26-9 record, including a pair of NCAA Tournament victories before falling to eventual champion Duke last month. Krystkowiak signed the contract in the department offices on Wednesday, granting some stability to a program that has seen a resurgence under Krystkowiak's watch.
In March, athletic director Chris Hill said extending Krystkowiak's contract was "an ongoing discussion," but it was well-known within the department that securing the 50-year-old head coach's future at Utah was a big offseason goal.
Hill said Wednesday he sees Krystkowiak's extension as a statement about both what he has meant to the program, and where the department expects the Runnin' Utes to contend.
"He deserves to be in the top tier of the league [in salary]," Hill said. "Larry has a lot of qualities that you can see. He can recruit. He can coach them up. He put together a staff that is excellent. He's a great community guy. He's an attractive coach. We want to keep him."
Hill didn't mention any schools that had made overtures for Krystkowiak, but said "he was on the radar of some people." Specific details of the contract including structure, buyout and bonuses were not immediately available.
Krystkowiak's tenure started rocky, with a six-win season in 2011-2012, but his teams have improved their records each year he's coached at Utah.
That continued this season, when Utah reached the Big Dance for the first time in six years and tied for second place in the Pac-12. The Utes were a No. 5 seed and beat Stephen F. Austin and Georgetown on their way to the Sweet 16, and finished the year ranked No. 15.
Krystkowiak has also helped developed Utah's best players, including All-American guard Delon Wright and star freshman Jakob Poeltl, along with starters Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge and others who contributed to Utah's rebuilding process. Winning has also sparked an attendance increase: Utah trailed only Arizona in home attendance this year in the conference, averaging more than 12,000 fans per game.
"I'm a big believer in those I work for, those I work with and the student-athletes I get to coach," Krystkowiak said in a statement. "This is an amazing university with an incredible basketball program, one which I feel very proud and humbled to be a part of."
Several friends and colleagues close to Krystkowiak said the former NBA assistant and head coach seemed settled in Salt Lake City. He and his wife, Jan, have five children in grade school, and Krystkowiak has said he's found Utah to be a stable setting for his family.
Hill said Krystkowiak indicated to the department that he wished to remain at Utah, which is adding a multimillion basketball facility this fall and has long-term hopes to renovate the Huntsman Center.
"He expressed to me that he and his family are happy here, and he likes what we've done and likes the community," Hill said. "We want to do what's right for him."
Krystkowiak's return to the program is a boon to a team that is expected by ESPN and CBS to be in the preseason top 25 next fall, with as many as four starters back if Poeltl forgoes an early entry into the NBA. Krystkowiak also expects to maintain his staff, which includes assistants Tommy Connor, Andy Hill and DeMarlo Slocum.
Hill said assistants' contracts are another item on his to-do list.
"We just talked about how to compensate the staff and what we're going to do," he said. "We want to make sure we do the best we can."
The contract details
According to Utah athletics:
• Worth $2.4 million per year
• Runs through the 2022-23 season
• Less than a year after signing a contract extension worth $1.4 million per season
• Would put him among top 20 highest paid coaches in 2015 NCAA Tournament*
*USA Today database
The track record
• Has increased the Utes' win total in each of his four seasons (68-63 overall)
• Led Utah to its first NCAA Tournament in six years, advancing to Sweet 16
• Utah was second in Pac-12 in attendance this season