2015 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Media Day: Larry Krystkowiak remembers his days coaching in the CBA
SAN FRANCISCO — Before he turned the Utes from a six-win squad to a Sweet 16 team, before he led Montana to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2006, Larry Krystkowiak was coaching minor league basketball.
Billed as the “World’s Oldest Professional Basketball League” because it was founded two months before the NBA, the Continental Basketball Association was the top minor league in the United States for decades until poor management and a lack of funds ran it into the ground for good in 2009 (the NBA partnering up with the D-League also didn’t help matters). The Idaho Stampede were a floundering franchise in the league, having its only winning season before Krystkowiak arrived cut short by the league declaring bankruptcy.
He only coached one season in Boise (2003-04), but he laid the foundation for a successful minor league franchise that eventually went on to win the 2008 D-League title after switching leagues. Led on the court by future NBA player Smush Parker and NBA veteran Randy Livingston, Krystkowiak directed the Stampede to a 34-14 record and CBA Finals appearance, where they lost to the Dakota Wizards.
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Krystkowiak credits his time in the CBA for launching his coaching career.
“It was awesome, actually,” Krystkowiak said at 2015 Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Media Day. “I was kind of floundering out in the East Coast without a job, so it was really what got things going for me [for] getting me back in the saddle.”
He remembers the long bus rides – six-hour overnight treks from Bismarck, N.D., to Sioux Falls, S.D., were the norm. He remembers the odd jobs that came with it – even as head coach, Krystkowiak would have to do the team’s laundry and clean out players’ apartments when the season ended. It was a humbling experience that he appreciates.
“You got back to your roots a little bit,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s the big thing that I take away from this - that there is no job that is too small or too big for you. Everybody just needs to get their stuff done.”