PROVO — Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer is no stranger to the Marriott Center. Tonight, he returns to the place where he began his Division I coaching career.
Ten years ago, Schroyer was a first-year assistant at BYU under then-coach Steve Cleveland, helping rebuild the Cougar basketball program.
Schroyer stayed in Provo for four seasons. The other assistant on that staff was, of course, current BYU head coach Dave Rose.
Now in his first season at the helm at Wyoming, Schroyer is bringing a Cowboy team to Provo that is looking to spring a huge upset and halt the Cougars' 46-game homecourt winning streak.
"I had a lot of great experiences there at BYU," Schroyer said. "I was a part of a lot of wins there. Seeing Dave over there (on the sidelines) probably won't be easy. It's one of the toughest places to play in the conference. We'll have to be ready to go."
Schroyer left the Cougars after the 2000-01 season to become an assistant at Wyoming. After one year in Laramie, he took over the program at Portland State, which went 5-22 in his first season and was 19-9 two years later.
The past two seasons, Schroyer had been serving as an assistant to Cleveland at Fresno State before landing the Wyoming job last spring. Schroyer's time in Provo prepared him to become a head coach.
"It helped immensely," he said. "This is the fourth rebuilding job I've been a part of. All those experiences prepared me for this. Every one of those have been different. I understand the process more than I did 10 years ago when I got to BYU."
Rose and Schroyer have remained good friends over the years and Rose is impressed with the job Schroyer has done in his first season at the helm.
"It's a challenge anytime you try to come in and put in your system," Rose said. "(Former Wyoming coach) Steve McClain is a really good friend of mine and did a terrific job while he was there. But their systems are so different, it was a big challenge to take such a big core of returning players and try to incorporate a new system. He's done a great job."
The 'Pokes are 12-16 overall and 5-10 in the Mountain West Conference, but they have won two straight games. Rose said it's tough installing a new system, but now that the season is winding down, Schroyer's players are buying into it.
"They've had a lot of injuries and they've redshirted some players," he said. "(Schroyer) has been trying to find the group that's going to execute that system the best. Right now, they're on a roll."
"They're playing real well over the last week or two," said BYU center Trent Plaisted. "They have a lot to prove. It's going to be a tough game. They're a really talented team and they seem to be getting better."
Tonight's game marks Senior Night at the Marriott Center, where seniors Sam Burgess, Ben Murdock and Vuk Ivanovic will be honored prior to tipoff. While Ivanovic has been injured most of the season, Burgess and Murdock have played big roles.
"Ben and Sam are two guys who I have more respect for than just about anybody," Plaisted said. "They've brought so much to our team and they are great leaders. I can't say enough good things about them. They're a huge part of what we do. They've been flying under the radar for a long time and they're very instrumental to our success."
Burgess said playing his last game at the Marriott Center "is exciting but bittersweet. I've had a great college career. We've had a lot of success and that's all you can ask."
Burgess and Murdock will be saddled with the task of containing Wyoming guards Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones.
"They're high-energy guys and you can't relax when you guard them," Burgess said. "It takes a team effort to guard both of those guys. They're playing great. It will be a challenge."
CORRECTION: The best record in BYU basketball history was 28-9, in 1950-51. A story in Monday's paper said otherwise. The Cougars need five victories to tie that school record.