There’s a certain segment of the BYU fan base worried about replacing Dave Rose.
While others were on the “Fire Rose!” train, the first group warned, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Here are some truths: There isn’t a huge pool of coaches because the school requires the new man be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are recruiting restrictions, the honor code, stiff academic requirements and, well, the Cougars play in the same league as Gonzaga.
One of my wife’s favorite movies is “Legally Blonde” with Reese Witherspoon. There’s a great line in the show when Elle, a bubbly California blonde, runs into her former boyfriend in the hallway on the first day of classes at Harvard.
“YOU got into Harvard?” he asks incredulously.
“What, like it’s hard?” Elle responds.
In some ways, that’s a lot like winning men’s basketball games at BYU.
I’m not saying winning in Provo is easy.
I’m saying the past 40 years or so shows that a variety of coaches have taken advantage of what the school does have to offer to win games.
The legendary Stan Watts (1949-72) went out with a 21-5 record and an NCAA appearance. His successor, Glen Potter, had one winning campaign — 19-7 in 1972-73 — and two losing seasons before being replaced by Frank Arnold.
This is where it starts.
Arnold had three 20-win seasons, including the Danny Ainge Elite 8 team of 1980-81 that finished 25-7. He then went 32-27 the next two seasons and was replaced by LaDell Andersen. Andersen’s fifth season was his best, with the Michael Smith-led Cougars ascending to the No. 2 spot in the polls before losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finishing 26-6.
Roger Reid took over in 1989-90 and started out well with six straight 20-win seasons and five NCAA Tournament appearances. He lost his job in the middle of a 1-25 campaign in 1996-97 and was followed by Fresno City College head coach Steve Cleveland. It took a couple of years, but Cleveland had a run of five 20-win seasons and three NCAA trips. He left for Fresno State after a losing year in 2004-05.
Rose took the Cougars to eight NCAA Tournaments in 10 seasons, culminating with Jimmer Fredette and the Sweet 16 run in 2010-11. But the past four years produced zero NCAA bids and no postseason at all this season.
Do you see a pattern? Since Arnold replaced Potter every single BYU coach has had some success that included NCAA appearances.
It should be noted that the success weathered three different conferences — the Western Athletic, the Mountain West and the West Coast — and whatever changes that occurred on the landscape of college basketball over the years.
Maintaining that performance proved difficult but that’s the way college coaching usually works.
A new coach brings new ideas, new techniques, new enthusiasm and even new players. That often results in an upward trajectory.
There are exceptions that can ride that trajectory for more than a few years. Rose was an exception. Until the past three seasons, the Cougars were always in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid. He had terrific players and the Jimmer Fredette run to the Sweet 16 is still held in high regard.
Rose talked in his farewell address about at the end of every season, the coaches and players wanted more. So do the fans. An NCAA berth invites pressure to win a few games. Winning a few games ramps up the pressure to advance further.
Expectations are simply part of college coaching.
BYU is doing its due diligence and interviewing a variety of candidates. None of the current coaching prospects — unless you count Austin Ainge, currently director of player personnel for the Boston Celtics — is a BYU grad. Rose wasn’t either, nor were Reid or Cleveland. It is important, though, that the new coach clearly understands what he faces when he takes the reigns in Cougar Town.
He should also be confident that he can win here.
Because there are good resources for him to work with and it’s been done before.