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PUSING FOR PERFECTION: GREAT EXPECTATIONS: COUGAR PLAYERS SHOULD WORK HARD AND `THROW UP A LITTLE BIT AFTER A BASKETBALL GAME.'

Roger Reid is a pusher.

For three straight seasons, Reid has led BYU teams expected to wind up in the middle of the WAC pack to two first-place finishes, one second-place.His approach? He pushes his team. He expects the best, and he frequently gets it.

"He gets the most out of his players," said Steve Schreiner, a senior on last year's WAC Tournament title team. "He knows what they're capable of, and if they're not doing it, he tells them. He believes that he knows his players better than they know themselves. He knows what button to push."

Reid pushed Schreiner's button early last season. After opening the year with six straight double-figure scoring games, Schreiner slacked off, scoring in single digits for four games. His rebounding totals also suffered. Reid responded by giving the starting power forward job to sophomore Jared Miller. Schreiner got the starting assignment back when Miller was injured, but the bench-time lesson had been learned, the right button had been pushed. Schreiner went on to lead the team in scoring in league play and make the All-WAC first team.

"He doesn't put anybody above the team," Schreiner said, "and he demands perfection."

Reid probably wouldn't argue, except to qualify Schreiner's remarks by saying he doesn't expect them to be perfect, just to give perfect effort. Reid's most famous utterance, which received nationwide attention in Sports Illustrated, defines his idea of perfect effort: "If they feel good about how hard they work and go on and throw up a little bit after a basketball game, that's all I ask."

The reason he can get away with asking players to toss their lunch for the team is simple: He would do it, too. His record of blood-and-guts effort, of outhustling everyone around him, of succeeding when everyone told him he couldn't, is well-documented. If you want to see Reid do something, just tell him he can't.

He'd love to prove you wrong.

Told he was too small at 5-foot-10 to play college basketball, he turned his back on a full-ride baseball scholarship at BYU to play guard on a 21-6 Weber State team that won a Big Sky Conference title and reached the NCAA Tournament.

Told he was a fool for taking over a no-hope Payson High School basketball team with a 6-2 center, he reached the region championship game.

Told he didn't deserve to be the head basketball coach at BYU, he made his team a perennial contender.

"There is something inside of me always trying to prove I can do a good job," Reid says.

It sounds mysterious, that "something" inside of Reid, but if you go back about 40 years to the Utah Valley community of Springville, the mystery is easily solved. Consider Reid then, and how much those early experiences affect his coaching style now:

THEN: "My mom was really the pusher in everything we did. She'd say, `If you're going to do it, do it right, and if you're going to go play, be the best at it.'

NOW: "I want guys to come out of BYU being the best players they can. I want to take them beyond their maximum, and I've always tried to push them there. Guys don't know how good they can be until you really push them beyond anything they've gone through before."

THEN: "If my mother and dad taught us one thing, it was how to work hard. We were up before the sun came up, from the time we were seven, eight years old, working for farmers. We'd dig ditches, we'd work every kind of job you could imagine, and we always gave an honest day's work. People wanted to hire us because they knew when they put us out in the field to do something they didn't have to check on us until five o'clock, and we'd be done."

NOW: "Nobody works harder than coach Reid," Schreiner said. "He's not going to let anybody outwork him."

THEN: "Mom and dad were always there for us. They loved us, they supported us in every way possible, they went out of their way to make sure we felt comfortable and had a good self-image."

NOW: "I have always believed that my teams are part of my family. We strive to have a great family relationship, where everyone cares about the other person."

Reid is still a small-town boy with small-town values. He still wears his hair the way he wore it in the 1967-68 Weber State media guide, his typical office attire is casual and sans expensive logos, he lives in a small town - Spanish Fork. He wears conservative suits to games but tosses the jacket aside when things start to heat up. He looks most comfortable in shirtsleeves.

Over the years, though, the small-town guy has experienced some of the world and its hard lessons. As a minor-league shortstop in the Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves systems, Reid spent four seasons trying to reach the big time. It didn't take the "Gee whiz" out of him, but it did change him in one regard: It made him determined to never prize potential over results.

"I always grew up being naive, thinking that the guy who goes out and wins games and busts his tail moves up," he said. "But I saw guys that signed for a lot of money and couldn't hit a lick get moved up, because they were the ones with potential. Who signed you, how much money you got to sign and their projections turned out to be more important than going four-for-four and diving in the hole three times to make plays. They went on potential instead of results.

"I guess that's why as a coach, when people tell me a guy is talented, I look at it different. A lot of teams we play have better jumpers, faster runners, but I want a guy who wants to play hard, that loves the game, that believes in what we're doing. To me, that's where talent is."

It's also a large part of the formula for the prototypical BYU basketball player. Reid has an undeviatingly clear idea of what he wants in a player, and his team knows the formula, too.

"The players that appeal to him most are coachable and will play their guts out," Schreiner said. "Usually, they're one and the same."

"We really try to focus on getting good character guys," Reid said. "In the long run, a good character person will beat someone who has shown flaws in his character. Character will show up sooner or later."

When Reid was an assistant coach, there were times when he clashed with players who didn't match his mold. Michael Smith, for instance, who felt that defense was something you did to pass the time while waiting to get the ball back, occasionally rubbed Reid the wrong way. As an assistant at BYU for 11 years, Reid put up with such players but vowed that if given the chance, he'd do things his way, play his kind of players. When he took over the head coaching job three years ago this month, the first order of business was tailoring the roster to fit his specifications. The result: In Reid's first year at BYU, three players transferred to BYU-Hawaii, two to Northern Arizona, one to Nevada-Reno. Reid said it was a simple matter of productivity.

"If I'm not productive here, they'll find another basketball coach," he said. "If guys are in the classroom at BYU and they're not productive, they don't let them stay. What we wanted to do was upgrade our program."

Those roster changes were a clear signal that times were changing. Some critics of Reid's hiring figured that because he served under Ladell Andersen and Frank Arnold, he would coach like them. While Reid acknowledged having learned much from his predecessors, he said he couldn't wait for a chance to do things his way.

"A lot of my philosophy, the things I do now, were things I established in my seven years of coaching in high school," said Reid, who has never had a losing season as a head coach. "I believed all along that those things would work."

One of those things, and a luxury he didn't always have as a high school coach, was control over his roster. "When you recruit the players you want, from the very beginning they know what you will stand for and what you won't stand for. I respect them and I expect them to respect me, but I'm the coach and they do it my way. Coach Motta always said, `You spend your whole life trying to be a basketball coach, learning and studying and everything else, and all of a sudden some snot-nosed kid's going to tell you how to run your program?' No."

So now Reid has a solid program, with a nucleus of strong recruits that should make BYU an NCAA tourney-caliber team for several years. Is it time to relax, just a little?

Not a chance. Not for a man who might sleep two hours a night during the season, who still sometimes throws up after a loss, who believes that fame is a figment of other people's imaginations and that today's success is easily forgotten in the glare of tomorrow's failure.

"I was here 11 years and nobody knew my name," Reid said. "And I worked hard those 11 years, I gave everything I had. All of a sudden now I'm the head coach and I walk down to the stadium for a football game and everybody says `Hi' to me. I feel embarrassed that people do that. I don't feel comfortable at all."

Reid can remember sitting in the stands at BYU's first home football games last season after an 0-3 start on the road, shaking his head in disbelief as fickle fans all around him criticized Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Ty Detmer and legendary football coach LaVell Edwards. That sort of thing - knowing that all that counts when you're a coach is what you've done lately - will keep him from ever feeling completely secure at BYU.

"I'm not permanent here," he said. "You just never know what the future brings."

For now, though, Reid has everything he wants - A job he coveted for years, an annual challenge to keep the competitive fires stoked . . . and a team to push, to perfection.