Provo • When he was asked about the difficulty of his job last summer in a relaxed and casual one-on-one setting, former BYU basketball coach Dave Rose brought up a conversation he had with a fellow Division I college basketball coach during an all-star camp for high school players in New York a couple of years before that.
The other coach had heard that “if a guy goes to BYU, he can’t smoke, drink or have sex,” and wanted to know if that was true.
“He said, ‘That’s negative recruiting. That can’t be right,’” Rose said. “I said, ‘no, it is right. That’s what we expect out of our guys.’”
The coach then asked Rose which of the dozens of players in the camp could [handle BYU’s Honor Code], and Rose said he knew of just one, but couldn’t be sure.
“Man, I am glad I got my job, and not yours,” the coach said.
Maybe that little story should be relayed to the folks at Sports Illustrated, who last week ranked the BYU opening No. 8 on its list of “most desirable jobs of the 2019 college basketball coaching carousel.”
All the jobs in the list except BYU are in Power Five conferences. Some have been filled.
“BYU will be a good opportunity for whoever gets it because it’s considered the second-best job in the WCC behind Gonzaga, has a ton of fan support, and the athletic department is serious about the program,” SI wrote.
Still, several questions have to be asked as BYU officials narrow their search for Rose’s replacement after the 61-year-old coach retired on March 26 with 14 straight winning seasons and eight NCAA Tournament appearances a big part of his legacy:
Is the BYU job still a good one?
Along with that: Can the next guy expect to have as much success as Rose did? Will BYU’s membership in the Gonzaga-dominated WCC be seen as a net negative or positive? What effect will the school’s increasingly heightened admission requirements and seemingly stricter Honor Code enforcement have on the new coach’s ability to attract more talented players than are currently in the program?
“That’s kind of the challenge that we have,” Rose told 1280 AM last week. “Any coach at BYU has to find the guys that will embrace what is really good about this place, and what makes this place really, really good. It is not for everyone. We know that, obviously.”
The head men’s basketball coaching job isn’t for everyone, either, because the position has to be filled by a member of the faith that owns and operates BYU, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Realistically, there are fewer than a dozen qualified candidates due to that restriction alone, especially if previous professional or head college coaching experience is a requirement.
As The Salt Lake Tribune reported Friday, Utah Valley’s Mark Pope, a former BYU assistant, is seemingly a slam dunk for the job. But even Pope has some misgivings about his ability to meet the expectations of a very supportive, yet very demanding, BYU fan base, according to several sources.
There are a lot of whispers among Utah’s coaching community, even active LDS who might some day be considered candidates for the position, that it is no longer the great job it was once considered to be. Many say it is easier to get to the NCAA Tournament at Utah Valley, which doesn’t have mighty Gonzaga to deal with on an annual basis.
Also, as Gary Crowton quickly learned, it is much better to follow the guy who followed the legend, than to follow the legend — in Crowton’s case, LaVell Edwards.
And yes, Rose will be considered a BYU legend, despite the program tailing off the last few years. He leaves as the winningest coach in school history, by percentage.
“It is always hard to follow a legend because people are going to compare, especially in today’s world. That’s just human nature,” former BYU assistant Heath Schroyer told 960 AM. “Dave had an unbelievable run. … But it is obviously a very hard job. You have to have the right person, the right personality to come in and perform under the shadow of what was there before.”
When Schroyer joined Steve Cleveland’s staff, BYU was in the WAC and it was a totally different job.
“From an outsider [non-LDS church member] who has been there twice, it is a unique place, but the uniqueness makes it special,” Schroyer said.
Bottom line, the McNeese State coach said, “is that BYU is still a great job, and the bones of this job, the things that are in place right now, are attractive and should be attractive to a lot of people.”
Former BYU player Travis Hansen, now a successful business owner, agrees, saying that it is “absolutely” one of the top 50 jobs in the country, maybe even top 25.
“It has the resources, the fan base, the amenities and history to achieve it. That’s been my experience. I have played all over. I have played in the NBA and with some of the top teams in Europe. And nothing is better than BYU, as far as amenities, practice facilities, fans, the way we travel, the way our fans treat us. It is first-class, all the way around,” said Hansen. “And it is owned by a worldwide church. I think someone with good vision would see that it is an incredible opportunity.”
Former BYU player Mark Durrant, a longtime radio analyst of the BYU Sports Network, said the job is still viewed as a good one around the country.
“Notwithstanding all the things that come along with the position at BYU, I think it is a pretty appealing position that I think would interest a lot of guys who want to move forward in their coaching profession who are good coaches and have a lot to offer,” Durrant said, noting that he would like the new coach to get more diversity on his staff and team.
Hansen said those positives aspects of the job “far outweigh” the difficulties and barriers mentioned above, and believes BYU basketball will have downturns as “all organizations, companies and teams” occasionally experience.
“You just need a little vision and a plan, and you have to cast a wider net for recruits,” Hansen said. “It just takes someone with vision and the courage to make some changes, because basketball is global now, and you have to think globally or you’ll be left behind.”
Hansen, who also played for Utah Valley when it was a junior college and supports that program financially as well, said the drawbacks to the BYU job are having to go against Gonzaga every year, some inflexible admissions standards, and the Honor Code.
“A lot of people don’t understand the expectations of the Honor Code,” he said.
Including a certain coach in New York.
SI’S ‘MOST DESIRABLE’ COLLEGE BASKETBALL OPENINGS
(As of March 29; some positions have been filled)
3. Texas A&M
Note: Other openings included Buffalo, Belmont, Saint Joseph’s, Temple, Tulane, UNLV, Washington State and San Francisco