Utah fires basketball coach Boylen after 4 seasons

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Utah men’s basketball coach Jim Boylen was hoping for one more year to rebuild.

Instead he lost big in Las Vegas, then lost his job after four seasons.

Boylen was fired on Saturday just two days after the Utes ended a second straight losing season by falling to San Diego State in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas.

“We had the pieces to build this team forward,” Boylen said in a phone interview, speaking of a team that returns nine players.

“I feel we had an upper-division team (heading into) the Pac 12. It’s a tough pill that way. It’s not my decision, so you move on.”

During four seasons at Utah, Boylen was 69-60 overall, including 32-32 in the Mountain West. This season, the Utes lost eight of their last 11 and finished with a 13-18 overall record and 6-10 in the conference. Last season, Utah went 14-17 overall.

Athletic director Chris Hill said a national search for a replacement would begin immediately.

“It’s difficult to point to one thing,” Hill said in a phone interview on Saturday. “It’s almost a collection of things you add up. We felt it was time and we needed to move in a different direction.”

The move was not unexpected, especially with the Utes moving to the more competitive Pacific 12 Conference next season.

Hill acknowledged that figured into his decision but not as much as the Utes’ competitiveness and home-court record of 3-5 in the Mountain West this year.

The Utes scored a conference tournament record low 15 first-half points against San Diego State.

Attendance throughout the season was sparse at the Huntsman Center where the Utes played their home games. Thousands of fans stopped following a team that once was rated the 11th-best program in college basketball.

The team drew crowds only when top opponents such as BYU were in town. Utah lost nine of its last 10 games to its instate rival, and was being out-recruited in the state.

San Diego State fans even taunted Boylen during the Utes’ regular-season road game against the Aztecs.

“You have to not feel like you’re taking a vote from any of our boosters or looking just at attendance,” Hill said. “It’s a decision we had to make in the best interest of the university.”

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