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The University of Utah has zeroed in on its top candidate to become its next men's basketball coach - and could hire him as early as today.

Athletic director Chris Hill and other university officials interviewed assistant coach Larry Krystkowiak of the Milwaukee Bucks for the position Tuesday in Milwaukee and they are believed to have offered him the job, sources told The Salt Lake Tribune.

The interview ignited a series of meetings involving high-ranking Bucks officials, sources said, which endured into the night and included U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, the team owner. The Bucks were grappling with whether they plan to fire embattled head coach Terry Stotts and replace him with Krystkowiak - a move that presumably would keep Krystkowiak from joining the Utes.

However, if Krystkowiak were to quickly accept an offer from the Utes, an announcement conceivably could come today, before Hill is due to attend the NCAA Tournament games Thursday in Sacramento, Calif.

Otherwise, and more likely, an

announcement would be expected early next week.

News of the interview came on the same day that Kent State athletic director Laing Kennedy confirmed that Hill had requested - and received - permission to speak with coach Jim Christian about filling the vacancy left when Ray Giacoletti resigned from the Utes under pressure on March 2.

But Kennedy said he was unsure if or when a meeting might take place, suggesting that Christian is a potential fallback choice in case a deal cannot be worked out with Krystkowiak, who still has a year remaining on his contract with the Bucks.

"I have absolutely no knowledge of where they're going, or where they're heading at this point," Kennedy said.

Neither Hill, Krystkowiak nor Christian could be reached for comment. Krystkowiak last week turned down a request for an interview, through a Bucks spokeswoman, and Hill has steadfastly declined comment on his search.

The 42-year-old Krystkowiak joined the Bucks last year after guiding the Montana Grizzlies to back-to-back Big Sky Conference tournament titles and NCAA Tournament appearances in his two seasons leading them. He was 42-20 with his alma mater - the Griz upset Nevada in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Huntsman Center last season - and has helped tutor former Utah All-American Andrew Bogut while with the Bucks.

Highly regarded in both college and pro basketball for his engaging personality and basketball knowledge, Krystkowiak is widely known as a favorite of Kohl, one of the most respected owners in the NBA.

However, Kohl is said to be torn over whether to fire Stotts, who has led the Bucks to a 23-41 record this season but endured a series of devastating injuries. Leading scorer Michael Redd missed 20 games, for example.

Meanwhile, Christian, 42, has led the Golden Flashes for five years, building a 110-51 record while continuing a streak of nine straight 20-win seasons. The Flashes finished 21-11 this year, ending with a 61-54 loss to rival Akron in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament last week.

In their effort to keep Christian, the Golden Flashes rewarded him last season with a seven-year contract extension through the 2012-13 season. Its terms call for it to be automatically extended by one year as a reward for winning 20 games this season.

Christian earns $250,000 a year before bonuses, according to the terms of his contract, which the Utes could at least double. They paid Giacoletti nearly $500,000 a year. However, a clause in the contract allows the university to match any offer that Christian receives - and charges him a massive buyout should he reject the match and accept another job anyway.