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With Kevin Young’s coaching staff complete, BYU’s new approach to program building is on full display

Young’s coaching staff puts a new premium on NBA and professional experience. It’s where he wants the program to go.

(Mary Schwalm | AP) Phoenix Suns acting head coach Kevin Young yells to his team during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, in Boston.

During BYU basketball coach Kevin Young’s interview process in April, a pillar of his pitch to the university’s administration was recruiting a higher-level player.

He had NBA experience he could leverage. He was backed by two BYU alums with deep NBA connections: Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and CEO Danny Ainge. It could translate, he thought, to making Provo a destination for future NBA players — something it has lacked in the past.

“What I want to do to take [BYU] to the next level is make this the best place in college basketball to prepare young men to play in the NBA,” he said. “I think with my background we can get that done.”

As he builds the scaffolding of his program, nearly everything appears to be centered around that tenet.

His coaching staff puts a premium on NBA and international experience. He mixed in several high-level recruiters who have been around the college game. In sum, it looks more like a professional approach to building out a staff than a traditional college coach. It’s another reminder that Young has operated differently from nearly any other BYU basketball coach in the past.

Around him, Young will have Will Voigt as his main defensive voice. Voigt was the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs’ G League team in Austin. He also coached national teams in Nigeria and Angola. He bounced around in China, Egypt and Germany.

Voigt became known as a defensive tactician, particularly as he coached the Angolan national team. It was there he created a new version of a switch defense called the “peel switch” to keep up with the drastic offensive spacing in the professional game.

Essentially, the aim of the “peel switch” is to lessen how far defenses need to rotate. Good spacing often puts defenses in conflict, where there is too much ground to cover and it creates open lanes and open shots. For example, if an offensive player is driving from the slot above either side of the key and beats his man, the weakside corner defender will come to pick him up. It means, for some time, there are now two defenders occupied with the ball and the weakside corner three is wide open.

So instead, Voigt decided that if a defender gets beat with the ball, he is no longer trying to recover. He will simply rotate to the next man and everyone else will rotate one man over. The help defender who picked up the ball will now be guarding the ball handler. It eliminates the need to put two players on the ball, shrinks the distance the defense needs to rotate and takes away that skip pass.

“If I’m beat off the dribble, we call that a switch. We don’t call it a help or a go. That is a switch for us,” Voigt said on the Basketball Immersion podcast. “It doesn’t make sense to have two on the ball because these guards are too good to make that pass. Having two is not going to deter that pass. So once you are beat, you are done doing anything that can help us with the ball. So now the help man is all in on the ball. ... You want to shrink your rotations as much as possible.”

Beyond defense, Voigt also understands the G League model of an ever-changing roster. That is close to what college basketball has become with the transfer portal.

“You can’t be rigid in your approach,” he said on the podcast. “The trademarks of a team are important on any level. But you have to be able to adjust to the players on your team and the talent they bring to the table.”

After Voigt, Young hired Tim Flanning. Flanning was with Overtime Elite for the last few years and helped build an NBA pipeline. He coached Amen Thompson, a lottery pick last year. He was also involved with Alex Sarr, who will be a lottery pick this summer.

Before that, Flanning coached in the top league in Israel and New Zealand. He has a professional background in player development.

For his other three positions, Young did get some college experience. His first hire was former Stanford assistant Brandon Dunson. He was seen as a capable recruiter who helped the Cardinal sign McDonald’s All-American Andrej Stojakovic.

Former Utah assistant Chris Burgess also signed on. He is a strong local recruiter who understands BYU (he worked with former head coach Mark Pope for several seasons dating back to 2019).

The final assistant was John Linehan out of St. Joe’s. The Linehan hire works on multiple levels. For starters, one of Young’s closest confidants is St. Joe’s head coach Billy Lange. He helped Young through the interview process with name, image and likeness funding questions. Linehan is out of that coaching tree and worked with Young while he was with the Philadelphia 76ers organization.

Beyond that, Linehan helped NBA player Anthony Edwards while he was at Georgia. He understands defense and player development.

In years past, BYU’s coaching staff often put a premium on institutional knowledge and connections. This time, only Burgess has worked at BYU before.

The message Young is sending is clear: He wants to recruit NBA level talent. And he backed it up with his coaching selections.