SALT LAKE CITY -- Jim Boylen's enthusiasm was a trait that
attracted Utah athletic director Chris Hill during the search for a
new basketball coach.
Boylen demonstrated quickly that he was every bit as gung-ho as
billed shortly after being introduced Tuesday as leader of the
Utes, leaving a Big Ten school for his first head coaching job.
"I don't think it's a mid-major," Boylen said in a room packed
with reporters, boosters and his new players at the Huntsman
Center. "It's a big major to me. If it's not, then we're going to
Boylen, an assistant at Michigan State the past two years and a
veteran NBA assistant, repeatedly said how "pumped" and
"jacked" he was to take over a program that has struggled the
last two years.
"I feel in my heart we could be great here in Utah," he said.
Boylen sounded a bit more like he was coming to coach football
rather than basketball.
"We have to improve our toughness, and we have to improve our
competitive edge," Boylen said. "Those two things have to
improve. That's my job."
He said any opposing players who plan on driving the lane can
expect to get hit as he again emphasized how toughness will be a
"People might play," he said, "but tough people win."
Boylen, who turns 42 in April, inherits a team that went 11-17
this season but had just one senior. He replaces Ray Giacoletti,
who resigned under pressure after three seasons.
Although Boylen has never been a head coach, he has 20 years of
experience working for some of the most successful in basketball.
He worked for Tom Izzo at Michigan State and assisted Rudy
Tomjanovich with the Houston Rockets, where he was part of
back-to-back NBA championships.
Boylen, wearing one of his big, gold NBA title rings on his
right hand, said the jewelry never hurts him when it comes to
"It speaks about the mountain top. Getting to the mountain top
is what it's all about," he said. "You've got to believe it
before you do it and I believe it."
Boylen has a five-year contract at $575,000 a year and said he
doesn't plan on leaving quickly.
Hill said Boylen answered most of his questions before they were
asked when they met last week in San Antonio.
"I thought he was cheating -- he had a crib sheet or
something," Hill joked. "I love his enthusiasm. I love his
Boylen said he became familiar with the area when he coached
Houston's NBA summer league teams in Salt Lake City.
"I think it's a great place to live and compete at the highest
level," he said. "Those kind of combinations are hard to find."