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The Dave Rose investment: Former players react to new 5-year pact

 Brigham Young Cougars head coach Dave Rose looks on during the game against Gonzaga Bulldogs at the Marriott Center Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014, in Provo.
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Dave Rose looks on during the game against Gonzaga Bulldogs at the Marriott Center Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014, in Provo.
Hugh Carey, Deseret News

Back when junior college coaches Steve Cleveland, Dave Rose and John Wardenburg were hanging around eating pizza during breaks at basketball clinics and camps in the early ’90s, none of them expected one day they’d all be coaching at BYU; that Cleveland would be the head guy and his assistant Rose would replace him. Certainly none thought BYU would offer its first ever five-year head coaching contract to Rose in those days.

But 10 straight 20-win seasons later, that’s exactly what BYU did with Rose. He’s a coach who has chiseled out 253 career wins but more importantly, at the image-conscious school, people like him; his enemies are unknown.

Cleveland is now an LDS mission president in Indianapolis, Wardenburg is the head coach of Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, and Rose is fighting to get 21-8 BYU into the NCAA tournament as the school’s all-time winningest coach.

Rose’s biggest challenges of his BYU coaching career haven't been getting to postseason play, but winning conference tournaments and advancing deep into the NCAA when invited. He has also found dethroning Gonzaga as the big dog in the WCC as tough as anything he faced in the Mountain West with New Mexico and San Diego State.

Polling athletes from Rose’s regime when he was an assistant at BYU or the head man, the native of Houston has earned their highest respect. These are players who’ve been through his practices, his locker room and have exposure to his personality and philosophy.

They say the investment has paid off and wil continue to do so.

Rose’s best team, once ranked No. 3 in 2011, piloted by school career scoring leader Jimmer Fredette and career steal leader Jackson Emery, made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 and was the embodiment of Rose’s system.

“Coach has always had a vision about competing on a national level,” said Emery. “He has always taught his players that we are skilled enough to play elite teams. That alone is why he is an incredible coach. He settles for nothing less.”

Rose isn’t without his share of challenges. As mentioned, his teams have never won a league tournament in Las Vegas either in the MWC or WCC.

He is 4-7 in NCAA tournament games, albeit BYU’s seeding is usually not in line with its RPI.

In the WCC, his teams have lost in the Marriott Center to Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco — all underdogs before tipoff. In the MWC, Rose rarely lost games to a team he was favored to beat.

Still, Rose chalks up wins at an impressive rate and is highly respected among his peers, His style of play is the most wide-open of any in Provo since Stan Watts in the ’50s and ’60s, and is entertaining to watch.

How good is Rose’s four-guard featured team? It is 21-8, with starting freshman Corbin Kaufusi averaging 2.9 points a game and his backup Luke Worthington 2.1 ppg. Carving out its first four-game win streak of the season Thursday, BYU's shifting lineup has produced 23 blocks in that span and outrebounded those four foes 161-108.

When Rose lost the school’s single-season record holder for offensive rebounds, Eric Mika, to missionary service to Rome after last season, fall injuries to front-liners Jamal Aytes and Nate Austin left him turning to a four-guard lineup. This has forged a live-or-die by the 3-point shot system in which he features two stud players in the prolific Tyler Haws and forceful triple-double king Kyle Collinsworth.

Rose fields the nation’s top scoring team at 21-8. Sometimes lacking in rebounding and frequently playing light on defense, Ken Pomeroy ranks the Cougars No. 31, ahead of 10 Pac-12 teams.

In his tenure, Rose has produced BYU’s two most prolific scorers in Jimmer Fredette and Haws.

His expectation of hard play and wins headlines his career.

As an assistant to Cleveland before elevation to head coach in 2005, players saw this fire in Rose.

“I remember coach Rose as the ultimate player’s coach,” said All-MWC forward Mekeli Wesley. “Meaning, all the players like him and looked up to him. You could tell he cared about you. He very rarely got too fired up at us in the locker room, but when he did we listened and tried to implement what he was coaching. I’m excited BYU has extended his deal and I’m extremely confident in his abilities to lead the program.”

The week BYU extended Rose’s contract, it also announced plans to build a practice facility annex and upgrades to the Marriott Center, more investment in the former JC coach.

“Dave Rose has always been an outstanding coach because of his ability to recruit talent and willingness to adapt his system to fit the talent he has,” said Trent Whiting (2000-01).

“He’ll always be successful because of his ability to adapt to the ever-evolving game of basketball. I believe this five-year extension is well-deserved and expect there will be another extension after this one because of his abilities.”

Jake Shoff (2003-04) congratulated Rose on the re-up. “(He’s) an amazing coach and even better man. Rose has always had a positive and impactful influence on me and the community. He represents BYU with class. His passion for excellence and winning the right way is unprecedented.”

Former Atlanta Hawk and European star Travis Hansen remains a loyal Rose disciple.

“He’s one of my top three best coaches I’ve ever had,” said Hansen. “The other two would be David Blatt, head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Ettore Messina, the lead assistant to the great Greg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.

“This is why the guy has shtick. I don’t know how to explain it or describe it, but Dave has this intangible talent and gift that enables him to motivate his players, to see what others don’t see, to connect with players and make apparent the strategies of the game.

“I believe his job and where he coaches is one of the most difficult in the country, and I don’t know of anyone who can do it better than coach Rose.”

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at