Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
BROOKLYN, N.Y. — For BYU, the opportunity to compete in the prestigious Coaches vs. Cancer Classic began on the steps of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago.
Coach Dave Rose was diagnosed with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor cancer in 2009. Since undergoing emergency surgery to remove the tumor, he has been cancer-free. In the fall of 2010, Rose was asked to speak on behalf of Coaches vs. Cancer on Capitol Hill to emphasize the importance of federal investment in cancer research, prevention and early detection programs.
It's a cause Rose has been involved in for more than 20 years, long before his own bout with cancer.
"While I was at Capitol Hill I got involved with a group of people who sponsored this tournament and put it together," Rose recalled. "We worked through that and got an invitation along with Florida State, Notre Dame and Saint Joseph's. I think all of those coaches are very active in Coaches vs. Cancer and that cause. That's one of the reasons we're involved in this tournament This is a great opportunity for our team to play in a fantastic tournament while supporting a cause that is very important to me. It’s inspiring to be involved with a group of coaches that are so passionate about trying to raise awareness and find a cure to this disease.”
Rose is one of more than 2,000 Division I, II and III college basketball coaches that belong to the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Coaches vs. Cancer is a national collaboration between the NABC and the American Cancer Society. The group has raised $50 million since it was founded to fund cancer research.
In the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic semifinals, BYU faces Florida State Friday (5 p.m., MT, TruTV) at the palatial, 18,103-seat Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The fact the Cougars earned an invitation to this tournament is a nod of respect for what Rose and his team have accomplished over the years, which includes six-straight 25-win seasons and six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.
"You've kind of got to earn your mettle to get those games," said BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe. "Sometimes there might be teams in a tournament that say, 'No, don't bring that school.' Right now, I think the stars have aligned."
Holmoe said he isn't very involved with the basketball schedule, as that is mostly handled by Rose and senior associate athletic director Brian Santiago.
"Dave's profile on the college scene has really increased over the last number of years," Holmoe said. "He is legitimate on the national scene now. I've always loved him from the day we hired him. But I think more and more people are getting to know him and know that he's a class act. He says the right things and runs a great program. The players are great representatives of the program. I think Jimmer (Fredette) did a lot to bring that BYU name back to the forefront again. Dave had his cancer and people realize that (Coaches vs. Cancer) does a really good job. They're a close, tight-knit group. They understand that what they're doing — and Dave's lived what he's doing. (They’re) raising money for guys like him. It just made sense. It's a team that represents so well and a coach that they like who is a cancer survivor."
The Cougars are thrilled to be part of this tournament.
"It's awesome," said senior guard Brock Zylstra. "You think about how far BYU has come, and how we've gained so much respect around the country to be invited to a tournament like this, and coach Rose building up this program to be national contenders. It will be cool to play at the Barclays Center. It's a great experience and a great opportunity for us."
An invitation to the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic has been years in the making.
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