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The Utah men's basketball team will be looking for another late addition, but not a recruit this time.
Phil Cullen, a Ute alum and the program's director of operations, has accepted a position with the San Antonio Spurs. First reported by ESPN 700 on Tuesday afternoon, the move was later confirmed by the program in a news release.
"I am very happy for Phil and would like to thank him for both his commitment and energy that he brought to our basketball program," coach Larry Krystkowiak said in the release "He will be working for one of the most respected franchise's [sic] in the NBA, along with one of the best general manager's [sic] in the business. We wish Phil the very best with his new endeavor."
Beyond his role as an organizer and logistics point man for the Utes, Cullen (who earned an engineering degree at Utah) played a large role in planning, designing and helping lead the construction of Utah's basketball facility, and served as the coaching staff's liaison on the project. He was director of player development for three years before assuming director of ops from Norm Parrish this past year.
Cullen will work in the Spurs front office. In an interview with the Tribune, he said the job offer was a sudden development this summer, and added that it was an opportunity he couldn't pass up.
Still, Cullen said he'll relish his experience at Utah.
"From Day 1, the people here at Utah were the biggest reason I came the right people and the right place," he said. "Couple years after coming here, it's been an honor and a privilege. It's cool to be able to represent the place you went school and come back."
Along with assistant Tommy Connor, Cullen also served as a bridge to the Rick Majerus era of basketball he was a standout player from 1998-2002. He ranks seventh all-time in Utah history with 153 made 3-pointers.
A coaching search will begin immediately, adding to Utah's upheaval on the playing roster this offseason. The Utes are replacing six scholarship transfers, three graduates and early NBA Draft entry Jakob Poeltl, with Lorenzo Bonam and Kyle Kuzma as the only two Utes with significant playing experience in a Utah uniform. Utah may go into the season with an extra unused scholarship.
Pac-12 announces hoops schedule pairings • The Utes came a step closer to finalizing their schedule Tuesday morning when the Pac-12 released the men's basketball conference play pairings. While exact dates remain to be set, the Utes now know who they're playing in what order. The schedule starts with a home game against Colorado.
In a flip-flop of last year's schedule, the Utes will be traveling to the Arizona schools and playing the Los Angeles schools at home in the only regular season meetings between the programs this year. While it's a bit of raw deal from an exposure standpoint to only face Arizona and UCLA once, it may end up helping the Utes if the Wildcats and Bruins are strong while the Utes are still building with a new group.
Alas: The Utes do play Achilles heel Oregon (with tons of returning talent) twice this coming season. So fans, brace yourselves.
The full pairings list for the Utes:
Week of Dec. 28-Jan. 1 • Colorado
Week of Jan. 4-8 • at Arizona/Arizona State
Week of Jan. 11-15 • UCLA/USC
Week of Jan. 18-22 • at Washington/Washington State
Week of Jan. 25-29 • Oregon/Oregon State
Week of Feb. 1-5 • at California/Stanford
Week of Feb. 8-12 • Washington/Washington State
Week of Feb. 15-19 • at Oregon/Oregon State
Week of Feb. 22-26 • at Colorado
Week of March 1-4 • California/Stanford
The Pac-12 tournament starts on March 8 at the Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena.