PROVO — Will BYU break with tradition and hire an experienced Division I head basketball coach to replace Dave Rose?
History says BYU has usually elevated an assistant coach or plucked an up-and-coming talent from the high school or junior college ranks, or hired a coach who has been an experienced assistant coach at another school.
That may change this time around.
Part of that old approach has been financial as BYU doesn’t like to get in an arms race chasing coaches with bundles of cash. Over the years, administrations have taken a conservative approach by seeking candidates who believed in the mission of the school and accepted the benefits of working in such an environment.
The other theory is that by elevating assistants familiar with the challenges unique to BYU, they would not only hire someone steeped in the honor code requirements but a guy who understood the history of admissions, recruiting and operating within the BYU system. The school struck gold several times in hires of Stan Watts, LaVell Edwards and Rose by taking this approach.
But times have changed.
Demands of specialty recruiting, the highly competitive world of coaching in a realm of agents and contracts that require additional and sometimes complex incentives, bonuses and bigger salaries in general, dominate today’s landscape.
The budget approach might not work anymore.
What we’ve learned in BYU building a basketball annex and renovating the Marriott Center and LaVell Edwards Stadium, is that “new money” may have injected greater flexibility into how the administration recruits its staff.
This is why going after an experienced D-I head coach for the first time since Ladell Andersen makes sense. And if you line up the candidates being kicked around, Utah Valley’s Mark Pope, a former Rose assistant, also makes sense. Some of the same supporters who’ve bought into Pope’s career at UVU could be asked to help build a package for him at BYU.
One of Pope’s requests of UVU, before he left BYU to take over the Wolverine program, is that administrators build a workout/practice facility. Under then-president Matthew Holland, that came to fruition through a huge contribution from Nuvi.
A top leader at Nuvi is a die-hard Rose and Pope supporter.
Two of BYU’s demands of the new coach should be a wider net in recruiting intensity and an emphasis on defense.
If you look at BYU’s hiring history for head basketball coaches, it is stark and clear. BYU simply does not go after D-I head coaches.
BYU’s last two coaches came on campus as junior college coaches after careers as high school head coaches in Utah and California.
Rose began coaching at Millard High, the same school where legendary Stan Watts coached. Rose then took a job at Pine View High in St. George as an assistant coach before moving on to Dixie College as an assistant before taking over the reins. Steve Cleveland hired Rose as an assistant when he got the BYU head coaching job in 1997, relieving interim coach Tony Ingle.
Cleveland began his coaching career at Clovis West High in Fresno before a stint as head coach at Fresno City College. He was the person tapped by BYU’s administration under Merrill Bateman after the Roger Reid era.
Reid came to BYU after head coaching jobs at Payson High, Clearfield High and as an assistant coach to Ladell Andersen from 1978 through 1989. Reid was very successful in battling rival Rick Majerus at Utah and taking teams to the NCAA Tournament. Reid was fired in December 1996 during the season.
Andersen remains the only coach BYU has hired who had D-I head coaching experience. Andersen was the head coach at Utah State before coaching the Utah Stars of the ABA from 1971 through 1973.
Andersen replaced Frank Arnold, who had been an assistant coach at Oregon and UCLA, a head coach at Payette High and Pocatello High in Idaho and had worked as an assistant in the Brigham Young High School (BYU High) system before taking a head coaching job at Clark Junior College in Vancouver, Washington. Arnold had never been a D-I head coach.
The legendary Watts came to BYU after starring at Millard High and, like Rose, was the head coach at Dixie College before going back to the high school ranks at Jordan High. He coached BYU freshmen from 1943 to 1949 before being named BYU’s head coach, a job he held until 1972.70 comments on this story
When Watts retired and worked briefly as the athletic director before baseball coach Glen Tuckett was elevated to that role, BYU hired a native of Idaho, Glenn Potter, an assistant coach at Nebraska, who was fired after two seasons. Potter’s Big Eight deliberate style stymied freelancing All-American Kresimir Cosic. Potter’s departure ushered in the Arnold era, Danny Ainge and the trip to the Elite Eight.
It’s an interesting tradition of hiring at BYU.
Is the next hire about to go against the grain?