New BYU coach’s first task: shaving his beard. Here’s what comes next for Kevin Young

Young says the Cougars have the support to win and believes a national title is not out of the question.

BYU introduces men's basketball coach Kevin Young during a news conference Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Provo • The Phoenix Suns’ initial reaction to Kevin Young becoming the head coach of the BYU men’s basketball team had nothing to do with hoops.

Instead, it was about his appearance. The beard their coach had grown for the last 13 years was suddenly gone. It is against the Honor Code at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints institution. It had to go.

“I walked into practice this morning — we had practice in Phoenix as we are getting ready for the playoffs — and all the guys were kind of looking at me,” Young said. “We had a good laugh about it. Funny enough, my wife wanted me to shave for the last 13 years. So ... she is happy about that.”

There will be many learning curves for the NBA assistant as he takes over BYU’s program. But perhaps there is nothing more sudden, nor as jarring, as the missing beard.

Young will officially start on the job whenever the Suns’ playoff run ends. Between now and then, he will start recruiting and hiring a staff.

Here are four notes on how Young sees the new job.

1. Young felt comfortable with BYU’s NIL funding

Young was in the mix for several NBA head coaching jobs over the last few years. Just last week, he was interviewing for the Brooklyn Nets position. The Charlotte Hornets were also interested.

The interest put him in a strong negotiating position with BYU. He wasn’t desperate to take any head coaching gig. He wanted a place he could win.

So when BYU called, one of his first — and main — questions was about BYU’s name, image and likeness infrastructure. It is the No. 1 factor in whether BYU can be competitive long-term in the Big 12.

He called his old friend, Saint Joe’s head coach Billy Lange, to see which questions he should ask BYU’s athletic director to see if the NIL support was sustainable.

“[Lange] was unbelievable in terms of peppering me with questions to ask all these guys to make sure I knew what I was getting into,” Young told The Salt Lake Tribune. “It gave me a ton of confidence with the answers they were giving me. This place wants to win and they have the backing to do it.”

2. Can the Cougars win a national title?

Speaking of that support, Young’s contract was nearly unprecedented for the school. With Jazz owner Ryan Smith footing part of the bill, the Cougars offered Young seven years and almost $30 million, according to CBS Sports.

BYU men's basketball coach Kevin Young gestures during his introductory news conference Wednesday, April 17, 2024, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

It was a sign that BYU was finally willing to pay the money to compete at the highest level. Young saw that and set his aspirations equally high.

“The ultimate goal is to win a national championship,” Young said. “When you are in the Big 12, and have all the resources this place offers, that is the ultimate goal.”

BYU’s president, Shane Reese, introduced Young by saying he wanted to take BYU to the next level. The commitment is starting to mirror that.

3. Young needs college experience on staff

Young’s first task will be building out a coaching staff. He is prioritizing coaches who have navigated NIL and the transfer portal.

“I’m trying to find guys who have had success with that portion of it,” he said. “I’m making some headway with some guys there. It is such an integral part of success in today’s landscape. So definitely tapping into that, [coaches] who have done it at other programs.”

He deferred when asked if he saw any college programs he wanted to emulate in terms of roster management. But he did acknowledge the college game is new for him. And he will need college expertise around him.

“To be able to insulate myself with people who are elite at navigating the college landscape from a recruiting, NIL, academic standpoint. I’m well aware of the figurehead role that I’m in,” he said.

4. NBA is what BYU will be about on the recruiting trail

(Ross D. Franklin | AP) Phoenix Suns coach Kevin Young, right, argues with referee Mousa Dagher, left, after a foul was called against the Suns during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Phoenix. The Suns won 115-97.

One change Young will make to BYU’s recruiting pitch is it will revolve around the NBA.

Young made it clear: He will sell recruits on trying to get to the NBA and using his experience in the pros.

He will employ some All-Stars, like Suns guard Devin Booker, in the recruiting pitch if he has to. He’s coached Booker for the last four years. Booker joked that BYU will now be known as “KYU.”

“That was a nice little play on words,” Young said.

But on a serious note, that will be a unique approach in Provo. No coach has gone all-in on the NBA in the past.

“I think it is a huge advantage. If guys have aspirations to play in the NBA, that is what this place is going to be about,” Young said. “I don’t know if you are going to find a better place in the country that is going to foster that. So we are going to lean into that. I wouldn’t be able to lean into those if I didn’t have good relationships with the guys I coached. Book’s been incredible. I love him.”