When Dave Rose persuaded his longtime friend, Heath Schroyer, to leave his position as an assistant head coach at North Carolina State for a similar post at BYU, Rose’s instructions were quite simple.
“He wanted me to put the car up on stilts, look under the hood, and try to get this thing more efficient,” Schroyer said.
Somehow, that has happened. Even with the last-minute withdrawal from school of star guard Nick Emery and the loss of talented big man Eric Mika to the professional ranks, the Cougars are playing better basketball — especially on the defensive end — than they did last year despite having noticeably less talent.
In Provo, they are calling it the Schroyer Effect. The 12-3 Cougars are tougher, more disciplined and paying more attention to defense. Sure, there have been lapses — like the final few minutes of regulation and all of overtime in last Saturday’s gut-wrenching 74-64 loss to Saint Mary’s — but generally BYU has improved (an easier nonconference schedule has helped), and Schroyer is one of the reasons why.
“The guys have really bought into his consistent approach. His credibility has been there from day one,” Rose said. “His consistency day to day as far as what he expects, and accountability from each of the guys, has been a real bonus for us.”
That toughness and desire Schroyer has injected into the program, which many believe had grown stagnant the past few years, will be tested Thursday when the Cougars travel to San Francisco to take on the also-improved Dons (9-6, 1-1) in a key early West Coast Conference game at War Memorial Gymnasium.
“We will see what our group is made of — especially against a team that is, when you look at what they do and you look at what we have a hard time with, they are really good at,” Rose said. “We are going to have to really guard that ball. … We are going to have to be on [point defensively] for a long period of time. We can’t have many lapses in this game.”
Schroyer won’t allow it. Players who fall asleep on defense — or hoist up a shot outside the “principles” of the offense, as they call it, get a quick hook. That didn’t happen a lot last year, when the Cougars went 22-12 overall, 12-6 in conference play, and continued their maddening habit of losing to lesser teams in the league.
“I would say [Schroyer’s] biggest impact has been bringing a desire to play for each other, to hold each other accountable, to be passionate,” said sophomore forward Payton Dastrup. “From day one, he was high-energy in the summer workouts, and he has maintained that energy through practice and in games, and I am sure most people have been able to see that on the sidelines.”
Schroyer is seemingly the perfect counterweight to Rose, who rarely shows emotion on the sidelines or in practices. It is still Rose’s team, but Schroyer often runs the show in practices and sometimes during games. Credit Rose for being secure enough to recognize he needed help to get the program to the next level, and being willing to partially get out of the way when necessary.
“We have been friends for a long time,” Rose said. “We coached together for four years on the [BYU] staff and then the last 16 years we have kept in touch at least once every month, and in some periods we talked every week.
“Heath is one of those guys who brings a lot of energy to the office,” Rose continued, while also praising the job done by the man Schroyer replaced on the staff, Terry Nashif. “Heath is a 24-7 basketball guy with connections all over the United States and overseas. The newness of Heath has created a lot of energy in the office.”
Rose and several players said Schroyer’s magic lies in the way he builds connections with every person associated with the program.
“It has been refreshing to have someone who is as motivated and has a desire as much as we have to get in here and work hard and get the best out of our abilities,” Dastrup said. “That has helped us produce the record we have this season.”
BYU at SAN FRANCISCO
At the Sobrato Center, San Francisco
Tipoff • 9 p.m. MST
TV • NBC Sports Calif.
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 12-3, 1-1; USF 9-6, 1-1
Series • BYU leads, 17-6
Last meeting • BYU 68, USF 52 (Feb. 11, 2017)
About the Dons • They are coming off an 84-61 win at Portland last Saturday. … They are led in scoring by 6-foot-3 freshman guard Souley Boum, an Oakland product who is averaging 15.6 points per game. Senior F Chase Foster averages 12.2 points, while Jordan Ratinho, a 6-5 guard,averages 9.9 points and 6-9 F Matt McCarthy averages 7.6 points and 5.4rebounds. … Coach Kyle Smith has a 29-19 record in his second year at the helm.
About the Cougars • They are 12-1 against the Dons since they joined the WCC and have never lost to USF in San Francisco as a WCC member. They have defeated USF in nine-straight games. … They are 5-1 away from home this season, with true road wins at Princeton, Utah Valley and Utah State. … Sophomore Yoeli Childs averaged 27.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last week.