SALT LAKE CITY — Less than four years after it began, the Jim Boylen Era has ended at the University of Utah.
Boylen was "relieved of his duties" as men's head basketball coach on Saturday, following his second straight losing season. The Utes finished 13-18 this year and lost in the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament for the second straight year on Thursday night.
He was informed by Utah athletics director Chris Hill on Saturday morning and met with his team shortly afterward to tell them the news.
Boylen said he was too busy coaching his team to worry about his job status, but wasn't oblivious to the rumors about his job status.
"I had a pretty good idea," he said. "I'm OK. I'm mostly concerned about my staff and my players."
Boylen took two hours Saturday afternoon to meet with any media that wanted to talk to him and was classy to the end.
"I'm thankful to have been the head coach here and to have had this opportunity," he said. "I'm thankful to President (Michael) Young and Dr. Hill. We won a league championship and a tournament championship. We were building with a group of guys that have grown. This core group of guys are good players and I felt if we kept this core together, we were going to have some success. I was hoping for one more year and it didn't come about."
When asked the reasons why he felt he was let go, Boylen said, "I think Dr. Hill looks at the wins and losses for the last two years. It certainly wasn't our academics, our compliance or anything off the floor. We've run a clean program and academically we're as good as anyone in the country."
Hill was vague about any reasons for making the decision to let Boylen go.
"I can't list a bunch of reasons," he said. "But as you add everything up, it didn't appear we were heading in the right direction with the program. There's no one particular thing can be pinpointed."
When pressed, Hill did say the lack of winning was a major factor.
"There's no question winning is a part of what we do in athletics — you can't deny that," he said. "We have a really proud basketball tradition here and there's no question how successful the team is competitively is a big part of that. As you look at it, you just have to make a decision."
Hill said the university would pay Boylen $2 million as part of a buyout clause in a contract the coach signed two years ago. That was in 2009 after the Utes had won the Mountain West Conference regular-season and conference championships.
However, Hill claims no university or donor funds will be used to pay Boylen a monthly salary of $30,000-plus for the next three years.
Hill said it will be taken care of in three ways: through contingency funds in the athletic department, anticipated revenues from joining the Pac-12 and what kind of job Boylen gets. Whatever Boylen is paid in his next job, it will be subtracted from what the U. owes him.
"It's not insignificant, but we have a plan in place so that it doesn't hurt other programs," Hill said.
The university just finished paying off the remaining four years of the contract of former coach Ray Giacoletti. When asked if it was a mistake to give Boylen a 5-year, $4 million contract in 2009 on top of the money owed to Giacoletti, Hill said, "The reality is we won the league and the tournament and other people were courting Jim."
Some of the Ute players took the news of their coach's firing hard.
"I'm speechless because of all the things that coach Boylen has done for us," said Ute center David Foster. "It's like losing a father figure. He just didn't prepare us for basketball games, but prepared us for life. It hurts to lose such a great person and friend as coach Boylen. But I know he's going to do well and wish him the best of luck."
Foster said he plans to return to the team but doesn't know if any other players might leave due to Boylen's dismissal.
"I sure hope (everyone returns) because coach Boylen brought such a great class in and we could do a lot of damage next year," Foster said. "We've just got to stay together."
Boylen, who brought in JC transfers Will Clyburn and Josh Watkins this year along with freshman J.J. O'Brien, doesn't know if any players might want to transfer.
"I'll stay out of it unless they want my help or advice," he said.
As for his immediate plans, Boylen said he does plan to stay in coaching.
"You hope you have some value out there," he said. "My body of work in my career is pretty good as an NBA assistant and in college. What you want to have is options to provide for your family."
"Jim's a talented guy and I'm sure he's going to find something," said Hill.
Hill said a search for a new coach would begin immediately, but he had no timetable on when it might be completed.
The Boylen Years
Season Overall MWC Finish Postseason
2007-08 18-15 7-9 6th CBI 2nd round
2008-09 24-10 12-4 1st NCAA 1st round
2009-10 14-17 7-9 T-5th None
2010-11 13-18 6-10 7th None
Career 69-60 32-32