BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope has four daughters.
For he and his wife, Lea Ann, Christmas is the ultimate test as parents: How do you make sure you get the right gift — and the same numbers of gifts, obviously — for each daughter?
All four daughters will be home for the holidays: Ella Pope just finished her first semester playing hoops for the University of Ohio.
The best present for the Popes is, “having all four daughters in the same room,” according to Lee Ann Pope.
With all the focus on his family, let’s not forget that Coach Pope has been very good this year — well, except for that sarcastic quote about the officials after losing to Utah. But, honestly, I think Santa would understand if he watched video of the game.
Here are a few things Pope would love to find under the tree on Christmas Day.
• A deeper bench
There’s a lot of season left for the Cougars and Pope has often gone just seven or eight deep in his substitution pattern. He’s got to learn to trust guys like Trevin Knell, Evan Troy, Taylor Maughan and Blaze Nield to give him at least a few minutes.
• A four or five-star LDS recruit
We know they exist (Frank Jackson, Jabari Parker) but they seem to always choose to go to a Power 5 school. One of these days, Pope will smooth talk one of those guys into coming to Provo and look out when that happens.
• A hidden recruiting gem from overseas
Pope is willing to make the trip and assistant coach Chris Burgess has the contacts. It’s only a matter of time before they bring in a foreign player that will change the program for the better. Kresimir Cosic 2.0 would be awesome.
• A few more free throws
What’s a coach gotta do to get a call once in a while?
• A WCC win in Moraga
Man, Saint Mary’s is tough at home. BYU last won there in 2014 and has lost the past five at McKeon Pavilion. The Gaels are really good this year but I think a good Cougar defensive effort will keep things close.
• A WCC win at home against Gonzaga
Dave Rose managed to beat the Zags three straight times in Spokane (2015, 2016, 2017) but the last time the Cougars got them in Provo was in February of 2014, a string of five straight losses in the Marriott Center. If the Cougar fans can fill the place up, maybe BYU can pull it off this year.
• A WCC Tournament championship
It’s bound to happen sometime. Gonzaga has dominated those three days in Las Vegas forever but Saint Mary’s knocked them off last year. So it can be done. And it would make for a fun Selection Sunday knowing you’re in no matter what.
• I know their wish list would also include an NCAA Tournament berth
Hard to believe, but it’s been nearly five years since BYU has earned a berth in the Big Dance, albeit barely slipping into the First Four in 2015. I think the Cougars have had enough talent to get there a couple of times but fell short. This year’s BYU team has the tools and the talent to make a run.