It’s one of life’s little quirks that three members of BYU’s new men’s basketball staff opted not to play their college ball in Provo.
That was a long time ago. Mark Pope (Washington, then Kentucky), Chris Burgess (Duke, then Utah) and Nick Robinson (Stanford) — along with Cody Fueger — are completely focused on winning and are nothing but excited to be charged with bringing the Cougars back to prominence.
“I’ve been so lonely,” said Pope, who was named the head coach two weeks ago. “We’ve put together a staff that will make BYU men’s basketball extraordinarily proud. I got guys with unbelievable street cred and a whole bunch of swag.”
Burgess? BYU fans are familiar. He was one of the country’s top recruits back in the mid-’90s but famously spurned Roger Reid and the Cougars advances. More than 20 years later, Burgess is “all in” with donning BYU blue.
“BYU has been around my family a long time, my whole life,” Burgess said. “To be at this school during this time, I couldn’t be happier. I think I recruited him (Pope) more than he recruited me to be here. When he took the job, I had an opportunity to stay at Utah Valley but it was a no-brainer for me to reach out to Coach and let him know I wanted to keep working and learning from him. We just have a really good flow.”
Fueger is in his second stint in Provo, having served as an assistant from 2013-15 under Dave Rose.
“I’m so excited to be back here,” Fueger said. “When I went to UVU with Coach Pope, I really believed in him and that’s why I’m back here. BYU has unbelievable tradition. I’m ready to start working and get going. Being able to work with Coach Pope again is second to none. I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
Robinson said he was recruited by BYU in the summer of 1997 by Rose and Steve Cleveland, who had just taken over the program.
Robinson and Pope’s friendship goes back to their days in the SEC when both were serving on the operations side. Robinson was at LSU and Pope at Georgia.
“We both had associations with great coaches who challenged us,” Robinson said. “Since that time, our relationship has grown. We’ve had an opportunity to get to know each other better and compete against each other. Now, to be able to join forces with him, it’s an incredible opportunity.
“It’s been an incredible journey. Our careers have run parallel paths. I couldn’t be more excited about getting the opportunity to represent BYU, its mission, the athletic department and this basketball program as we move forward to the future.”
Pope hasn’t made any assignments yet as to what each assistant coach’s duties will be, though Fueger said they talked personnel for about 10 minutes before the news conference began.
“What we do is we’re relentless in making sure these guys are the best they can be at the end of the day in every facet, off the court and on the court,” Fueger said. “It’s what we love doing. We love building relationship with guys.”
Pope said Burgess and Fueger took some time before the news conference and shot for the only assistant coaching office with an outside window.
“In true BYU fashion, they competed for it,” Pope said — though Robinson, who once made a 40-foot shot to beat Arizona State back in 2004, was on a flight to Provo and was unable to compete.
Burgess claimed the shooting contest and the prime office space.
“The issue is I was shooting against a ‘Trail 5,’” Fueger said with a smile. “He always shoots in the middle of the floor. If we shot from the corner, it would have been a no-brainer, I would have won that thing easy. But he just gets it for three months then we’ll do it again.”
Robinson broke in with “hopefully I’ll be in the building next time.”