Dedicated. Intense. Charismatic.
Those three words are all you need to know about Ray Giacoletti, who is entering his third season as the head coach at Utah.
Giacoletti is Utah's 13th head coach, taking the reigns of the program on March 31, 2004. He also directed programs at North Dakota State (1997-2000) and Eastern Washington (2000-04). Giacoletti has a 43-21 (.672) mark in two years at Utah and a 160-104 (.606) career record in nine years. His teams have won two regular season conference championships and made three postseason appearances.
A "Sweet" Start At The U.
It didn't take long for Giacoletti to leave his mark on a program that has the 10th-best winning percentage in NCAA history. Giacoletti led the 2004-05 Utes to a 29-6 record, tying the third-most wins in a season in school history. He also had the best record among NCAA Division I first year head coaches. Utah claimed the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship outright and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. As a result, Giacoletti was named the NABC District 13, USBWA District 8, and Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year. Sophomore center Andrew Bogut became Utah's first-ever consensus National Player of the Year.
After starting out 5-3, the Utes reeled off 18 consecutive wins to tie the second-longest winning streak in school history. Utah also achieved two other milestones by recording the 10th 25-win season in school annals and winning its 11th regular-season conference championship in the last 15 years to continue the nation's best run over that period. The Runnin' Utes won the MWC title with the best record in the league's six-year history at 13-1.
Giacoletti then directed the Utes to the championship game of the MWC Tournament. It marked the fifth straight season that Giacoletti led his team (Utah or Eastern Washington) to the conference tournament title game. He then became the first rookie coach to lead Utah to the NCAA Tournament. The sixth-seeded Utes defeated UTEP (60-54) and third-seeded Oklahoma (67-58) to advance to the program's first NCAA Sweet 16 appearance since 1998. The U. fell to Kentucky (62-52) in the Austin Regional semifinals.
After cracking the Top 25 on Jan. 24, Utah was ranked the last nine weeks of the season and finished No. 14 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll and No. 18 in the Associated Press poll. The U. climbed as high as 12th in the coaches poll on Feb. 21. Utah was in the NCAA's top 20 in four statistical categories, ranking second in field goal percentage (51.7), third in rebound margin (+10.8 rpg), seventh in scoring defense (57.1 ppg) and 17th in scoring margin (+11.3 ppg).
After losing six lettermen from the 2004-05 squad, including two first team all-conference selections in Bogut and Marc Jackson, the Utes were in a rebuilding mode last season. The Utes went a 14-15 overall record, placed sixth in the Mountain West Conference at 6-10 and advanced to the semifinals of the league tournament.
Among the 10 players that averaged double figures in minutes played, five were first-year players while another was a former walk-on. Looking toward the future, three first-year players ranked among Utah's top five in scoring, rebounding and assists. In addition to the three foreign players Utah signed for the 2006-07 season, two of the three American recruits were named to the USA Today Top 100.
Success At Eastern Washington
Giacoletti went 69-50 in four seasons at Eastern Washington, the best mark of any coach in the school's Division I history. He led the Eagles to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2004, as well as the Big Sky Conference regular-season and tournament titles. In each of Giacoletti's first three years, the Eagles placed second in the Big Sky during the regular season and advanced to the tournament championship game. In 2002-03, Giacoletti led EWU to the NIT for the program's first postseason bid since 1947, when it was an NAIA member. It was only the 12th time since 1983 that a Big Sky Conference team had earned an NIT bid.
Named the 2003-04 Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year, Giacoletti directed Eastern Washington to a 17-13 overall record and an 11-3 mark in conference play. The Eagles won 14 of their last 18 games--including 11 straight victories for the school's longest winning streak in 21 years as an NCAA Division I member--on their way to winning the Big Sky Tournament. The Eagles battled back from a halftime deficit to defeat Northern Arizona 71-59 in the championship game. In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Eastern Washington fell to eventual Final Four participant Oklahoma State after playing the Cowboys to a 36-36 draw after one half.
Giacoletti led Eastern to 41-17 record in Big Sky Conference games for a .707 winning percentage that was seventh best in the 41-year history of the league. He ranked ahead of such coaches as Don Monson, Mike Montgomery, Tim Floyd and Larry Eustachy.
The Eagles took on all comers under Giacoletti, playing the four most difficult nonconference schedules in school history with the majority of those games coming on the road. In 2003-04, the Eagles' nonconference schedule was the 12th-toughest in the nation according to the Sagarin Ratings. Giacoletti coached the Eagles to the biggest win in school history on Nov. 15, 2001 when they knocked off No. 10 Saint Joseph's 68-67. Eastern picked up wins over Washington and San Diego State during the 2002-03 season. Giacoletti's Eastern teams played five Big Ten Conference foes in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Also on the schedule were the likes of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Gonzaga, Nebraska, Kansas State and California.
Giacoletti had a sensational debut on the Eastern Washington bench during the 2000-01 season. He was selected by CollegeInsider.com as its Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year after EWU finished 17-11 overall and second in the Big Sky with an 11-5 record.
During Giacoletti's second year, Eastern finished 17-13 overall and 10-4 in the conference, winning 12 of its last 17 games after a 5-8 start. In 2002-03, the Eagles closed the year with an 18-13 record, receiving the program's first-ever invitation to the NIT. EWU finished second with a 9-5 mark in league play and advanced to the Big Sky Tournament title game, losing at Weber State 60-57. Playing in the postseason for the first time in over 55 years, Eastern lost at Wyoming in the first round of the NIT.
Giacoletti's players were named first team all-conference 10 times. Alvin Snow was an Associated Press honorable mention All-American in 2003-04. Eastern Washington made Big Sky history by becoming the first school to finish second or better in the league standings five consecutive years. He won his 100th game as a college head coach when the Eagles beat Idaho State 76-67 on March 11, 2003.
The Eagles were a solid defensive team under Giacoletti. Eastern Washington ranked among the top three teams in the Big Sky all four years in scoring defense and turnovers forced. In Giacoletti's first season at the helm, Eastern led the Big Sky in scoring defense (68.8 ppg).
Climbing The Coaching Ladder
Giacoletti's first head coaching job was a three-year stint (1997-2000) at NCAA Division II North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., where he went 48-33. His teams finished with a winning record all three years, including an 18-9 record in 1997-98.
Before becoming a head coach, Giacoletti was an assistant for four years at both Illinois State (1989-93) and Washington (1993-97) under Bob Bender. Washington was 16-12 and 17-10 with NIT appearances in Giacoletti's final two years. He was pivotal in assembling the school's 1994 recruiting class that was rated among the top 20 in the nation. At Illinois State, he helped lead the Redbirds to the 1990 NCAA Tournament and three Missouri Valley Conference regular season championships.
Giacoletti graduated from Minot State University in North Dakota with a degree in physical education in 1985. He was a four-year letterman, started three seasons and served as team captain twice. He got his start in coaching as a student assistant coach at Minot State in 1984-85 while he finished his degree. Giacoletti was a graduate assistant coach at Western Illinois in 1985-86, also starting course work toward a master's degree in sports administration. He was an assistant at Oral Roberts in 1986-87.
Giacoletti then moved on to the professional ranks as an assistant coach and director of player personnel for the Fresno Flames of the World Basketball League from 1987-89. While he was in Fresno, Giacoletti was also a regional college scout for the Seattle Supersonics.
A native of Peoria, Ill., Giacoletti graduated from East Peoria High School in 1980. Giacoletti, born on April 14, 1962, married the former Kim Lankford in 1994.