Provo • During a 14-year tenure in which he would become the winningest basketball coach in BYU history, Dave Rose often shied away from answering questions in one-on-one settings about his consistent success, or the way he elevated the program on a national level.
Instead, Rose liked to talk in his windowless office in the Marriott Center — before he moved all his stuff over to the basketball practice facility in 2017 — about all kinds of other things, such as his love of St. George, his children and his grandchildren, or how many outdoor concerts he planned to attend that summer. He especially didn’t like to talk about his legacy, or the numbers that defined it.
That’s why it was no surprise at Rose’s retirement news conference Tuesday afternoon that he mostly brushed off questions about his 348 wins, 13 consecutive 20-win seasons, .720 winning percentage, eight appearances in the Big Dance and why he was retiring 23 wins short of catching Stan Watts for most in BYU basketball coaching history.
“These are all just numbers on a page,” he said. “People tell me these are all impressive numbers, but what I will remember is the players, the relationships that I have with the guys, the coaches. That’s one of the things that I will really miss. … And I am not a big reader, so maybe that’s why they don’t matter to me so much.”
Asked about the legacy he leaves at BYU, Rose said it is hard for him to talk about, and prefers to let others come up with their own descriptions of his 22 years at the Provo school — eight as an assistant to Steve Cleveland, 14 as the leader of a team that never had a losing season while he was in charge.
He did mention that he was proud that more than 90 percent of his players graduated with degrees “that they wanted, and not a degree that the basketball program sent them through.” He was proud that BYU had a successful team every year he was head coach, and referred to some of the difficulties of sustaining that success, such as church missions, transfers, the behemoth known as Gonzaga, and that his recruiting pool is limited.
“As far as my legacy is concerned, I hope people really had fun watching our teams play,” he said.
Rose was 43-11 against instate schools, 14-6 against rival Utah, another point of personal pride.
He also said he was proud that BYU got its long-desired basketball practice facility, the Marriott Center Annex — where he had an office with windows — built during his tenure, and was also able to remodel the Marriott Center with more cushioned blue seats and those huge video boards.
“You don’t do those things if you don’t have good teams,” he said.
He was right on both accounts. Without Rose’s influence, glad-handing of supporters, and wins, those upgrades probably don’t happen.
BYU had a few great teams during his run, just not enough to keep a few wealthy boosters, some of whom supported those same upgrades with their pocketbooks, from suggesting to athletic director Tom Holmoe and deputy AD Brian Santiago that it was probably time for a change.
It could be argued that BYU hasn’t had a truly great team since Jimmer Fredette left the building in 2011, closing an era of excellence that raised expectations to unreachable standards. The famed Lone Peak Three not staying together, not living up to their billing, didn’t help his cause, either. Rose’s handling of the Nick Emery NCAA violations case, in which he was perhaps too eager to let the troubled guard rejoin the team after all the damage he had done to BYU’s image, also turned some folks off.
Rose called the 2018-19 team “one of the greatest adventures of my coaching career,” at the season-ending basketball banquet Tuesday night.
His program was — is — in a rut, and everyone knows it, especially those who keep track of attendance figures in Provo. The Cougars haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2015, haven’t made much of a national splash — aside from those three consecutive wins over Gonzaga in Spokane from 2014-16 — since they joined the West Coast Conference and indirectly made Rose’s path to national prominence even more difficult.
Rose was and is well-aware of all that.
He said he leaves “wishing we had done a little bit more,” including a Final Four appearance like he had as a player at Houston.
“We came close one year,” he said, referring to 2011. “But it didn’t happen for us.”
Close wasn’t quite good enough, to some. It’s part of the legacy, along with all the good the man did in his fight against cancer.
“I tell my players this: every year that it ends, we wanted more,” Rose said. “We always want more. We wanted more when it ended in the locker room in Las Vegas this year [with a 19-13 record]. We wanted more when it ended in the locker room in Philadelphia, and when it ended in the locker room in Anaheim, and when it ended in the locker room in New Orleans in [the Sweet 16]. You always want more, and I think that’s what continues to drive you.”
Until it doesn’t. And that’s why Rose is gone, more than any other reason. He told BYUtv Wednesday morning that he had become disinterested the week after the Cougars were embarrassed in Las Vegas.
After all, he’s always had a lot of other things he would rather talk about.
DAVE ROSE’S IN-STATE RECORD
Utah State: 10-3
Weber State: 13-1
Utah Valley: 3-1
Southern Utah: 3-0