Bound for Pac-10, Utes fire Boylen

Utah 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, 45, was fired Saturday, two days after the Utes ended a second straight losing season with a defeat by San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Utah will move to an expanded, 12-team Pac-10 Conference next season

“We had the pieces to build this team forward,” Boylen said, speaking of a team that returns nine players. “I feel we had an upper-division team (for) the Pac 12. It’s a tough pill that way. It’s not my decision, so you move on.”

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

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

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

Hill said the Utes’ change of conferences figured into his decision, but not as much as the Utes’ lack of competitiveness and home-court record of 3-5 in the Mountain West.

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

Home attendance was sparse throughout the season at the Huntsman Center. 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 Brigham Young were in town. Utah lost nine of its last 10 games against its instate rival and was being outrecruited in the state.

Boylen was Utah’s 14th basketball coach, replacing Ray Giacoletti in 2007.

■ GEORGIA TECH — The mounting losses and declining attendance finally caught up with coach Paul Hewitt.

The school answered the long-running question about Hewitt’s future, firing the coach two days after another disappointing season for the Yellow Jackets.

Hewitt, who coached Georgia Tech for 11 years and took them to the NCAA championship game in 2004, muddled through his fourth losing season (13-18) in the past six years.

“At the end of the day we just didn’t win enough games,” he said. “It’s part of the business.”

Athletic director Dan Radakovich said he hopes to hire a coach before the Final Four, which begins April 2 in Houston.

The Yellow Jackets were 11th in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season at 5-11. Their season ended Thursday with a first-round loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament. Hewitt’s overall record in 11 years was 190-162, including a 72-104 conference record.

The financial impact of a half-filled arena for Georgia Tech’s home games overwhelmed the $7.2 million buyout Hewitt will be paid over five years.

As the losing seasons piled up, attendance dipped dramatically at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The Yellow Jackets didn’t sell out any games this season at the 9,100-seat arena.

Hewitt led Georgia Tech to five NCAA Tournament appearances. The highlight came in 2004, when the Yellow Jackets lost to Connecticut in the championship game.

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