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Dick Harmon: Coach Dave Rose awed by BYU's growing fan support

Published: Tuesday, April 10 2012 11:23 p.m. MDT

PROVO — There is a picture on the north wall of the office inhabited by BYU head basketball coach Dave Rose. It's a panoramic scene, a moment captured from the arena's rafters, of a sold-out Marriott Center during a Cougar win over Gonzaga this past season.

The photo depicts wall-to-wall people — a full house.

The symbolism isn't lost on Rose.

Almost 15 years ago, when he came to BYU with Steve Cleveland, most games in the Marriott Center had more empty seats than occupied ones.

Since those days, Cleveland and now Rose have experienced a ton. There have been NCAA appearances, conference championships, All-Americans and a national player of the year.

What sometimes gets lost in the numbers is the needle that has been moved with fan support.

But it is not lost on Rose.

"The thing about that picture is it doesn't focus on the court but on the fans," the Cougars' coach said. "There were more than 20,000 of them at that game.

"Two things I like about it are the fans and the score. I don't like to talk about things I feel during the season because they are kind of personal, but one of the most satisfying things about this past season is when they told me two days before the Portland game that it was sold out."

That got to him.

"To me, it meant a great deal. It's a new league, it was a team (Portland) that didn't have a real draw to it, but it was our last game here for the season and everybody wanted to come see it."

Rose got word about the Portland sell-out when BYU was on a road trip to Gonzaga. The Pilots, who did not have close to the kind of season staged by Gonzaga or St. Mary's, were a team that just meandered along and was scheduled to come to Provo at the end of the WCC slate.

"The rest of that whole road trip, I thought, 'My goodness.' It just made me feel good inside for our players and our coaches. That's a lot of people to come to an afternoon game. There was no Jimmer (Fredette), there was no hype, there was no Noah Hartsock (injured) and no championship on the line.

"You look back at the season in a new league and we averaged close to 18,000 fans a game. That doesn't just happen. You don't get 18,000 fans to a game anywhere in the country except three or four places.

"It was a team that wasn't going to win a conference championship and the fans came," Rose continued. "I will always appreciate that. It means a lot and I'm grateful for it — grateful to the community, to the students and the fans for that. It did not go without notice by our players because they talked about it. It was a big deal to them."

Looking forward, Rose hopes to sign an already committed junior college shooting guard this week and make that official. (Western Nebraska's Raul Delgado committed to BYU last January.) He might add another recruit and fill out his available scholarships.

Star forward Tyler Haws returns from his LDS Mission on Thursday and forward Stephen Rodgers will undergo a second knee surgery at the end of the semester.

Chris Collinsworth, another forward who nursed a knee injury the past two seasons, was just cleared to do daily weight-bearing workouts.

Rose said his two goals for next season, other than winning a title and making the NCAA Tournament, are to stage a more consistent offense and increase his talent and depth at every position.

The latter, he believes, he can do through recruiting, skill development and strength and conditioning.

Although BYU finished the 2011-12 season with a 26-9 record, he claims it was the most difficult season to conduct productive practices in his seven years as a head coach because of injuries and competitive depth issues. He wants that issue fixed.

Rose said proposed changes to the Marriott Center, and discussions of a new practice facility are exciting. While Rose did not talk of details, he said he is "thrilled" with the support and vision of the university and athletic administration in making these changes.

"It will be interesting how these plans go," he said. "I think it will make the atmosphere even better."

email: dharmon@desnews.com

twitter: Harmonwrites

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