DENVER — While BYU basketball coach Dave Rose is working tirelessly to prepare his team for its opening-round NCAA Tournament game against Wofford Thursday in Denver, Cougar football coach Bronco Mendenhall is hip-deep in spring drills in Provo.
It's a busy time — two versions of March Madness — for both Rose and Mendenhall.
The two coaches have plenty in common. They were hired within months of each other — Mendenhall in December 2004, and Rose in April 2005, after serving as assistants under Gary Crowton and Steve Cleveland, respectively.
Mendenhall and Rose have guided their respective programs to remarkable success during the last six years. Mendenhall has won a pair of Mountain West Conference championships, earned four consecutive top-25 finishes in the national polls and collected four bowl wins. Rose has guided the Cougars to four MWC titles, five NCAA Tournament appearances in a row, and six straight 20-win seasons.
Furthermore, the two men share a bond simply because not many can empathize or relate to what they deal with as head coaches of high-profile programs at a peculiar school like BYU.
"We have so much in common in terms of position and representation and leadership," Mendenhall told the Deseret News. "Even though the positions aren't identical, there are a lot of commonalities and things that are understandable only by a very few."
Earlier this month, Rose's program was rocked by the suspension of sophomore forward Brandon Davies, who violated the school's strict honor code. Last spring, Mendenhall dealt with a similar situation when the school's all-time leading rusher, Harvey Unga, was dismissed for violating the honor code.
"I would say (Rose) and I are friends, but kinship is probably the more accurate description of our relationship," Mendenhall said. "It's not one of those relationships where we talk every week or after every game. It's more of talking at pivotal points three or four times a year. Or one or two times a year, where we reach out to each other. That was one of those times."
Sitting near courtside at the Marriott Center for BYU's final home game on March 5 against Wyoming (a 102-78 Cougar win) was Mendenhall, accompanied by his young sons.
"It was the only game we made it to, but it was a game I felt like — I had visited with Dave a little bit earlier — and wanted to be there for that game," Mendenhall said. "It was fun. We had a great time. We're fortunate to have that kinship to be able to talk about things in those moments when you need someone to talk to."
Last year, BYU football players and coaches took a break from spring drills to watch the Cougar basketball team's double-overtime win over Florida in the NCAA Tournament.
"Our players were yelling and celebrating. I could hear them in the locker room," Mendenhall said last spring. "Our staff was in different rooms (watching the game). It was really fun. It was a great reminder of just what athletics can do for the spirit of the institution and give you a cause to rally around. It was a great day."
No doubt, Mendenhall, and the rest the Cougar football team, will be watching, and supporting, Rose and the Cougar basketball team again Thursday.
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