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Harmon: Dave Rose, Mark Few face off as top hoopmeisters

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 9:45 a.m. MDT

Gonzaga coach Mark Few talks to his team during a timeout during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, in Indianapolis. Butler won 64-63.  (AJ Mast, AP Photo) Gonzaga coach Mark Few talks to his team during a timeout during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, in Indianapolis. Butler won 64-63. (AJ Mast, AP Photo)

Dave Rose and Mark Few: Men who, if found in a room of mirrors, could look at at oneself and actually see the other.

These two coaches are win machines. They hop on front-end loaders and scoop up victories and pile them at season’s end.

The two square off Thursday night in Spokane, Wash., where Few’s Gonzaga Zags host Rose’s BYU Cougars. One will lose, the other will win. About eight out of 10 times, when these two coaches' teams take to the court, they chalk up wins. They do this better than 342 of the 346 other coaches in NCAA Division I.

No kidding.

Mark Few and Dave Rose. They are more alike than one would think. In fact, if you made a poster of college basketball mentors and what they should be like, this pair would be at the top.

Brigham Young head coach Dave Rose yells instructions to his team as they play Weber State in Ogden, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.
 (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Brigham Young head coach Dave Rose yells instructions to his team as they play Weber State in Ogden, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

Few and Rose rank among the NCAA’s top four current coaches in winning percentage behind leader Roy Williams of North Carolina. Thing is, Williams has had the benefit of coaching at mighty Kansas and with the legendary Tar Heels. He’s had a built-in treadmill to generate wins season after season, a machine destined to always churn out victories and NBA stars.

Few enters Thursday's game with a 359-92 record for a win percentage of .796, second behind Williams. Rose is 200-59 with a winning percentage of .772, and that was ranked No. 4 when this season began.

In the WCC, Few has a win-loss record of 166-22 (.883). In the Mountain West and now WCC, Rose’s league records are a combined 93-22 (.808).

See the similarities.

Few and Rose have spent their careers coaching at private religious institutions in small, out-of-the-way college towns in mid-major conferences. They’ve had to recruit against the big boys. They’ve had to build systems that work, that maximize talent, that produce conference championships and appearances in postseason play.

Rose discovered Jimmer Fredette; Few collected Adam Morrison.

Few works for the Jesuits, the largest religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. Rose works for a school sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly referred to as the Mormons.

Both better not cheat. Actually, both are mutually admired by their peers for the way they recruit, compete and generally deal in the business of college basketball.

These men are private, humble and don’t seek the limelight. Few quietly makes his program the train that pulls the WCC along. Last Saturday when Rose earned his 200th career win in the Marriott Center, he sat in front of the media and immediately deferred every aspect of his victories to everyone around him, from assistants to managers.

These guys rarely speak out of turn or say things that just come off bad. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find quotes attributed to either man that would be considered inflammatory, embarrassing or just plain stupid.

In a world where many if not most college coaches are also exemplary men with personalities worthy of adoration and praise, we’ve got to be frank here, there are a few that are bullies, jerks and egotistical, narcissistic maniacs.

Few is the son of a pastor who has preached to the same congregation in a small Oregon town for 51 years. Rose took two years out of his life to dedicate himself to a full-time mission to Manchester, England, in the mid-'70s.

Both these men are known nationally for their charitable work, their dedication to causes like Coaches for Cancer and the American Cancer Society. While you can publicly find figures amounting to nearly half a million dollars as a result of Few’s charitable work with his wife Marcy, Rose and his wife Cheryl have also raised tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars through their fundraising and events to benefit cancer patients. Their money numbers aren’t as available.

I read a quote about Few in the Tacoma News Tribune from last March, around the time of the NCAA Tournament. It came from Gonzaga’s play-by-play man Greg Heister. Every word he said could have described Dave Rose.

“He’s able to separate himself from the fray so well, and that keeps him grounded. He’s humble and private and he lives for his family and doesn’t pat himself on the back or want praise or glory. He mostly appreciates his quality of life.”

Rose and Few.

They are each one of a kind. And, the kind you hope will be around for a very long time.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company