PROVO — The complexion of the BYU basketball program has changed dramatically, and guard TJ Haws is taking it all in as he prepares for his senior season.
Since the conclusion of his junior year in early March, Dave Rose retired and Mark Pope was named the new head coach.
What have the past couple of months been like for Haws?
“It’s definitely been a lot of emotions. There’s mixed feelings when there’s a lot of uncertainty. It was sad to see coach Rose go,” he said. “But all the changes that have been made have been fantastic so far. I really like coach Pope. He brings a lot of energy to the program.
“It feels good meeting with him and talking with him. I’m excited to have him around,” he continued. “I’m looking forward and I’m excited for the new changes. It’s a new team, new coaches, new everything. I’m excited for what’s ahead.”
Not only has Rose left the program, but so have the other assistant coaches, including Quincy Lewis, who was Haws’ high school coach.
Meanwhile, the Cougars’ leading scorer, Yoeli Childs, has announced he’s forgoing his final year of eligibility to turn pro. Jahshire Hardnett and Rylan Bergersen are transferring out (Hardnett to Montana and Bergersen to Central Arkansas) and Jake Toolson, the reigning WAC Player of the Year at neighboring Utah Valley University, is planning to transfer in.
Certainly, there are questions remaining — including players’ roles and their status with the program.
"We’ve lost some guys, our whole coaching staff is gone," Haws said. “For the most part, the guys are excited about what coach Pope is going to bring to the team. The best teams are the ones that are the most together on the floor. I think he’s really going to help us with that. Our culture and our team chemistry is going to be really good and he’s going to be a huge part of that.”
Amid all the changes, there’s been some speculation that guard Nick Emery could transfer.
“I expect Nick to be back. I think we’ll see the old Nick,” Haws said. “He’s going to have a great summer and he’ll contribute a lot.”
What has been Pope’s message to the players he’s inherited?
“As he’s been hired, we’re moving into our spring and summer workouts. We’re going to be relentless. We’re going to work as hard as we can to be successful,” said Haws, who averaged 17.8 points and a team-high 5.1 assists and 1.2 steals last season. “He’s really instilling confidence in us. It’s going to be good as we get together as a team and start working on our goals. We’re going to be relentless in everything we do.”
Haws’ older brother, Tyler, who is the program’s all-time leading scorer, played for Pope when Pope was an assistant coach at BYU.
“Tyler and coach Pope had a great relationship. They were always working out before and after practice and before games. Tyler’s told me that coach Pope has one of the smartest brains in basketball,” Haws said. “I’ve already seen that. I’ve met with him and we’ve talked about film and a lot of things. You can tell he’s incredibly smart and understands the game well. I’m just a sponge right now and I’m trying to soak it all up. I look forward to experiencing that more.”
Haws said he’s not quite sure about the style of play Pope plans to employ at BYU.
“Coach Pope and I have talked about goals that I have,” he said. “But we haven’t really talked about our game plan. I have full trust in him and whatever we choose, it will be really good.”
Who could have foreseen such sweeping changes in the BYU basketball program back in mid-February, when the Cougars swept a road swing by rallying for victories against San Diego and Loyola Marymount?
From there, BYU ended up losing three of its final four games, including an embarrassing 80-57 setback to San Diego in the West Coast Conference semifinals. The Cougars finished with a 19-13 record, marking the first time since 2004-05 that BYU failed to go to either the NCAA Tournament or NIT and the first time during that span that it fell short of the 20-win mark.
“That game (against San Diego), you try to put out of your memory. We had been progressing so much up until that game,” Haws said. “We’d made a lot of strides and a lot of improvement as a team and then we had one of our worst games we’ve ever played. Nobody could make shots and things weren’t going our way. It almost seems like that was a team of the past.”
A couple of weeks later, Rose announced his retirement and on April 10, Pope was named as his replacement. Pope’s assistants are Cody Fueger, Chris Burgess and Nick Robinson.
“I’ve talked to them briefly,” Haws said of the new assistants. “From what I’ve seen, they’re fantastic guys. I’m excited to get to work with them and get to know them better.”63 comments on this story
Amid all of the changes in the program, Haws is hopeful that his BYU career will end on a high note. The goal is to get into the NCAA Tournament, something the Cougars haven’t accomplished since he arrived on campus.
“It’s tough to get in there, but that’s my ultimate goal. I want to get there more than anything. I believe every year we have a shot to get there,” Haws said. “The best teams I’ve played on, we have great chemistry and it doesn’t matter who gets what as long as we come out with a win. I think coach Pope will help a lot with that. I believe this team can do something special. I fully expect us to get to the tournament.”