Tad Boyle has turned into a polarizing figure for fans of Colorado basketball.
For some, the leader of the CU men's program will always be the coach who led the Buffaloes to previously unseen heights, a run that included the 2012 Pac-12 Conference tournament championship and four NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons between 2012 and 2016.
However, the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately crowd is gathering plenty of fodder. The Buffs weren't able to get back to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 despite a veteran lineup that included future NBA draft picks Derrick White and George King. Turnovers are an annual frustration, no matter who is on the floor. Only one win in those four tourney appearances will be an eternal regret. The youth movement and program reboot has been a painfully slow process, with a still-promising future balanced by the reality of what is on pace to be a third consecutive year without an NCAA tourney berth in 2019.
Both outlooks have merit. Neither outlook matters. It seems Boyle isn't going anywhere for a while.
This past week, athletic director Rick George confirmed to BuffZone.com that the automatic one-year extension written into Boyle's contract was enacted once again, keeping Boyle under contract through the 2023-24 season. If ever there was a year to pass on that one-year extension — it automatically is invoked if neither Boyle nor the university gives notice of the intention to opt-out by Dec. 31 — it seemed this was it, with the Buffs' reboot stuck in neutral and a lackluster effort at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii fresh in George's mind.
In the end, it was a decision made with the big picture in mind, and not a knee-jerk reaction to a rough week in Hawaii. Regardless of how the remainder of the 2018-19 season plays out in a wide-open Pac-12 Conference, the Buffs project to be even more formidable next year, assuming the roster remains intact. Passing on the one-year extension would invite doubt to creep into the Buffs' locker room, with players left to perhaps wonder if sticking together indeed is in their best interests.
Moreover, Boyle runs a low-maintenance program. His players haven't shown up on police blotters and, Deleon Brown's recent academic issues notwithstanding, they take care of business in the classroom. White, King, Spencer Dinwiddie, Andre Roberson, and Alec Burks have represented the program extremely well at the next level, and Boyle has done a remarkable job of cultivating a network for CU basketball alumni.
And don't forget the bottom line. Boyle is affordable, and with former football coach Mike MacIntyre on the books for years to come, diving into a similar financial quagmire with the basketball program isn't feasible. In USA Today's annual summary of NCAA coaching salaries last spring, Boyle's base and supplemental income of just under $1.425 million per year ranked eighth out of the 10 disclosed salaries in the Pac-12 (USC and Stanford are private institutions not required to disclose, though USC's Andy Enfield's salary has been reported at about $1.5 million). If Utah is a desired model for the CU football program — where 6-6 or 7-5 seasons are the base line, mixed with the occasional challenge for a league crown — CU basketball already has established that model under Boyle.
Maybe next year the heat gets turned up. When the likes of McKinley Wright, Tyler Bey, D'Shawn Schwartz, and Evan Battey are a year stronger and more experienced. When the Buffs welcome back injured 7-footer Dallas Walton and add 6-foot-11 Jakub Dombek to the mix. When a nonconference schedule already shaping up to be far stronger than this season gives the Buffs a better primer for the rigors of Pac-12 play.
Maybe then the heat turns up for Boyle. But that time hasn't yet arrived.
"I've got to do what's in the best interest of our basketball program, and that's true whether we've gone to six straight NCAA Tournaments or we've missed six straight NCAA Tournaments," Boyle said. "When I lay in bed at night and I worry, it's not about my contract. It's not about my job security. What it is about is, how am I going to help our players get better? And how am I going to help this team get to where we want to get. That will be true as long as I coach.
"I'm lucky to be the head coach at the University of Colorado. I said when I got the job it's my dream job. Nothing has changed. I'm as frustrated as I'm sure our fans are and our players are and our coaching staff is. I share in that and take ownership of it."