I still remember one of the first times reporters talked to BYU coach Dave Rose last fall. I turned to one of my colleagues after the interview and remarked that Rose just didn’t look himself. The colleague agreed.
Rose looked thin and emaciated. His voice was a bit weak and it looked like he was really tired after that practice in October.
Turns out, we were probably on to something.
Rose admitted to me yesterday in a 30-minute interview in his office at the Marriott Center that he had not fully recovered from his surgery on Sept. 9 to remove cancerous tumors on his pancreas when the season began.
"But I feel great now," he added.
You can read more about how difficult the recently completed season was on Rose — physically and emotionally — in this piece on the Tribune’s website.
"Yeah, it was," Rose said, when I asked him if this season any more taxing on him that his previous eight. "There was a stretch there where we …I don’t know if it was so much the number of games, but the number of days we went through. We got beat on a Saturday [by Utah], then beat on another Saturday [by Oregon], and then went to the next Saturday and Monday and got beat [by LMU and Pepperdine].
So the calendars days were long. You feel like you have got the makings of a pretty good team, and you just want to change it. You don’t think you are going to be 8-7 going into the new year.
I think that a lot of the unknown at that time was tough. We were asking, ‘what can we do?’. We were looking for the answer, and wondering how will guys perform.
I think that’s why. All teams are really special, and the journey that you experience with that group of guys is always special. You just bring up a name, and I can tell you some great things about that year and the hard times and the times you remember. This one will always stand out, because it was something we had never been through before, and it ended in an NCAA Tournament appearance, which I think has to be considered successful no matter where you coach, or who you are playing."
Rose said his assistants — Tim LaComb, Mark Pope and Terry Nashif — were "all-stars" in the beginning of the season, and helped him through the recuperation process. So I asked him if he is happy with them and how they performed the entire season.
"Well, I think that, I actually feel the responsibility to help these guys achieve their own personal and professional goals, and I think so much of that comes as a result of success with your program. I think the group that I have is as good as any in the country, and I rely on them as much, or probably more, than most head coaches do, and they all have their really important responsibilities, and I have empowered them to do their thing.
I am really pleased with how they all perform. I think at times maybe if I am juggling things around, it is just for them to help them grow and to progress.
I think for the most part, this is a pretty cohesive staff, and most of the decisions that are made in recruiting, actually game-coaching and game preparation, were made as a group. Everybody has pretty good input on how we are going to move forward as a program.
I don’t see any real need for any big changes."
Since my colleagues on the beat talked to Rose on Monday (I was traveling and unable to fill a time slot that day) and had already reported his answers to questions such as the scholarship crunch and his assessment of the season, I tried to go in a different direction — such as the questions about his future and his health, his desire to see a basketball practice facility built, his contact with Jabari Parker since the prep superstar chose Duke over BYU and others, and more.
And we just chatted about non-basketball related stuff, like our golf games and how much my job description has changed since I began at the Tribune way back in 1989 and started covering sports in 1990. We also got in a good discussion, which we both agreed wasn’t for publication, about how he views media coverage of his program and what he likes or dislikes about dealing with reporters like me.
Anyway, here are some of Rose’s answers from Tuesday, stuff I haven’t used in the Matt Carlino transfer story/blog or the health story:
Rose on the basketball practice facility that’s been proposed and whether he’s satisfied with progress on it or if he’s frustrated it is taking so long:
"I know how our athletic administration feels. I know how the university administration feels about it. I understand the challenge, too. I 100 percent believe it will happen. It is just a matter of how it fits, and when it fits. For me, obviously, the sooner the better. I think it has a real effect on the progress of your players, just individually. That’s the purpose of those things. So hopefully it happens soon.’
Rose on whether the next BYU basketball coach, his successor, is on his staff right now:
"I would hope so. The transition last time was a positive step [from Steve Cleveland to Rose], so I would hope that that is what will happen the next time. But I don’t think much about that. I don’t know that that is on the minds of a lot of people. Maybe it is. But I don’t think about it that much."
Rose on the three LDS players leaving USU (Jordan Stone, Danny Berger and Kyle Davis) and whether they are interested in any of them:
"Who is leaving? …. I hadn’t heard that. Well, I heard they had some roster issues, and had some people they were juggling around. But I didn’t know the names of the guys. Jordan Stone is leaving? Wow. … We are pretty locked into our group of guys. We aren’t looking [at adding anybody] right now."
Rose on whether he’s talked to Jabari Parker since Parker made the announcement on national television that he was picking Duke over BYU and Michigan State:
"We have texted back and forth a couple of times. Pope has talked to him. Pope has a great relationship with him."
Rose on whether Parker and Payton Dastrup (who has since decommitted from Ohio State and picked BYU) let him know before their announcements:
"You kind of find out with everyone else….. I don’t know what the protocol is. In both those situations, we weren’t the chosen one. Maybe the chosen one knows. I don’t know. The unchosen one doesn’t know."
Rose on whether the Payton Dastrup change of heart surprised him:
"At first, it seemed like he had his heart set on coming to BYU. He was really interested. But at end of last summer, I could see that it was kind of turning. The feeling that he had for BYU was not nearly as high of a priority. He started making visits, started to get intrigued by other offers. Last home visit we made, I could tell he was really conflicted. So when he decided he was going to go to Ohio State, I wasn’t as surprised at that point as I would have been a year earlier. But I was really surprised when his dad called and said he was thinking of coming here. Because that has never happened."
Rose on the effect that being in the WCC the last 3 years has had on recruiting, good, bad or no impact at all:
"The league is a discussion in recruiting, but I don’t think it is a real determining factor of what a player is going to do. But there have obviously been quite a few discussions, and we have ended up with two or three really good recruiting classes since the announcement has been made, and we have actually been in the league.
I wouldn’t say it hasn’t had any effect on it. I would say it has had a positive effect, because we continue to be able to recruit at a pretty good clip.
The league is every bit as challenging as the Mountain West Conference. The perception might be a little bit different, but it is really good basketball. I think our guys that are in the program really understand that now."
Rose on the season and whether it was a success in his eyes:
"Oh yeah. To get to the NCAA Tournament is such a difficult task. It is such a great accomplishment for our team. I think we were all a little disappointed that we weren’t able to advance in the tournament because we’ve had that feeling here before.
But I do believe that with us not going to the tournament a year ago, and us being able to get back to the tournament this year, it is really good for the younger guys in the program.
I think the disappointment of not being able to advance, I hope it really helps us in the offseason and we will work hard to get better.
The fact that we got to the NCAA Tournament, which is our [top] goal we set every year, that brings some validity to the fact that we did get it turned around."
Rose on what he expects out of next year’s team:
"I think we will have a lot of depth. I actually like the way the roster breaks down. This year, we had quite a few challenges. We made the decision to get a transfer [Jamal Aytes] that we knew would not be eligible. That always puts you behind the eight-ball for that season, to have a scholarship player that isn’t eligible to play.
Then the last two scholarships didn’t really kind of work the way we thought they would. Then we ended up with 10 scholarship players, which was the first time for us. We had never been through that.
But I think this year’s team, the balance of experience and balance of depth at both positions, as far as our perimeter positions and our inside positions, I think along with the experience factor, I think the roster has great balance to it."
Rose on Kyle Collinsworth’s recovery:
"Kyle has got a great attitude. I spent an afternoon with him last week, and his mindset right now is really good. There are obviously challenging issues that players have to go through, but I haven’t heard anything but positive thoughts about his recovery.
The surgery went well and the doctor is really upbeat about his prognosis. It is tough for him right now because he can’t bear weight on it. In three or four more days, it will be partial weight-bearing and that will be good for him to get around.
He is trying to get through this initial healing process so he can start rehabbing, because I think that’s where he will really thrive as far as being able to get through this injury."
Rose on the last season and not taking many 3-pointers:
"I think that the balance of our roster going forward is a little more comfortable for us. We made as many free throws as anybody in the country. We were right up there at the top.
Somewhere between there we need to find the balance that is really good for this team next year. I think we are not such a perimeter oriented offensive team that we can actually score in the post and drive the ball in there and get to the rim and get fouled and get to the free-throw line.
We need to be more efficient at the free-throw line. I also think we need to be better on the perimeter, to help our spacing, and help our interior guys. But I do like how we have transitioned from a team that shot an excessive amount of threes to a team that is more of a offensively aggressive at the rim. I hope we can find the right balance.
A lot of it has to do with personnel and success at the free-throw line. Hopefully we can get ourselves back in a position where that becomes more of a weapon for us."
Rose on whether they are making strides in playing more man-to-man defense, which he stated as a goal last year:
"I felt we became a much better defensive team as the season went on. I think early in the season we had real issues just individually with depth on our roster, and who was actually prepared to play. I think as our bench grew and the players got more confident with each other, we became way more aggressive defensively. Hopefully next year with the addition of a few more scholarship players on our roster we can start in a place where we are pretty good, and then we can get better as the year goes on.
I thought the first maybe three weeks, four weeks of the season, defensively we were on a bad track to where it was going to be really difficult for us to be successful. We got better. Hopefully we will start there next year."
On what fans can expect from the newcomers: Jamal Aytes, Jordan Chatman, Isaac Neilson, Chase Fischer and Ryan Andrus:
"They are all very aggressive, physical, offensive-minded players. Chase is a great perimeter scorer. Jamal is a great interior scorer. Isaac has the potential to be both.
Jordan Chatman can play all three positions. He’s very versatile. He’s got good size and scored the ball really well in high school. He’s a good 3-point shooter and good off the dribble. So we are excited about their individual skills they bring to the group.
Jordan, we will have to see how he adjusts after his mission. The other three, we watched a lot the last month of practice, practicing with and against our guys. We have some team members that are really excited for the addition of the new guys to our roster.
When you lose a game, especially when you lose a game in the NCAA Tournament, you go through that emotion of that’s the last time you are going to be with your guys. They did accomplish something great. You weren’t able to get that really special feeling of that tournament when you advance and move forward.
You have to emotionally get yourself through that, and immediately, from whatever the time frame is, you turn to the next season.
You go, ‘OK, what is going to happen tomorrow, from here on.’ You realize there is so much to do in recruiting, you just get your head down and go. This season, I believe, felt like that. Our work is all in-house. We got the guys here. I really believe that with Eric [Mika] leaving, it is going to be a real issue to fill that spot. But then we have some other real depth that will be added to this roster, of guys that we have seen the last three or four months of practice that makes us all as a staff feel really good about the future.
Sometimes you have the names out there, but you haven’t seen them play with your guys, and you have all that adjustment to go through. We feel pretty confident that we have a chance to have a really good team next year."
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