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BYU basketball faces plenty of challenges in weeks to come

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BYU head coach Dave Rose and his staff exit the floor as BYU falls to the University of Texas at Arlington in NIT action at the Marriott Center in Provo Utah on Wednesday, March 15, 2017.

BYU head coach Dave Rose and his staff exit the floor as BYU falls to the University of Texas at Arlington in NIT action at the Marriott Center in Provo Utah on Wednesday, March 15, 2017.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

PROVO — Dave Rose got the message.

This past season, even with the excuse of putting the youngest team of his career on the court, fell short with an NIT home-court thud. There were season-ending injuries and a bundle of inexplicable losses and head-scratching performances. The latter is fodder for change.

I believe when Rose and his staff returned from the NCAA Final Four, on his own and with some prompting from his administration, Rose declared the status quo unacceptable. All options were on the table, including a staff shakeup and pulling scholarships.

From a self-evaluation basis, Rose had to admit from top to bottom, his organization underachieved. I think he was challenged to fix it. There are plenty of season-ticket holders who want accountability for some lackluster games. At the end of the season, some couldn’t give their seats away.

To get back in the NCAA Tournament, Rose needs his staff to become, well, simply better. Same with his roster in both depth and talent, where bench scoring was paltry.

Rose doesn’t need to reinvent his program. He needs better offensive efficiency and more defensive emphasis. He needs better recruiting from a wider base. His teams have never been a steel curtain defensively, but strides are needed to stop opponents.

A source shared with me that guard Steven Beo, forward Jamal Aytes and guard Davin Guinn won’t be back next season. No announcement from the school has been made, but if true those scholarships will be used for recruiting and the early return of shooter Zac Seljaas from an LDS mission.

We saw the announcement last week by assistant Terry Nashif that he left the program to pursue business opportunities. Nashif was popular with BYU players, and the support shown him on social media from current and former Cougars came in an impressive display of loyalty. Tim LaComb is also popular on staff and with players. Nice guy. Check that, both are great guys.

Sometimes you need a bad cop to play alongside the good cop on a staff. Rose himself is an experienced offensive coach. What he needs is a banshee-type sellout defensive mind with an attitude.

Many may remember Heath Schroyer, an assistant hired by then head coach Steve Cleveland. Schroyer was an absolute monster voice on that staff. He was a task master who broke down players, made it personal about defensive play and demanded starters give their utmost effort, never shirking their duty on that end of the court. As a result, folks played defense and took it seriously.

Schroyer, who just finished a stint as assistant at the ACC’s North Carolina State, left BYU to be a head coach at Wyoming, Portland State and Tennessee-Martin. He was also assistant to Dave Rice when at UNLV.

Rose needs a Schroyer kind of fix and quick. This kind of hire will make the biggest use of the departure of Nashif.

Question is, does Rose still have the connections and relationships to make that kind of hire? Once a junior college networker, you wonder if he’s been in a comfort zone at BYU the past few years. When Nashif left, did he have somebody in mind, or is he collecting resumes and deciding from who begs for a comfy BYU job?

As for recruiting, no doubt Rose is scouring fifth-year graduate prospects, JC transfers and other possibilities. The spring recruiting period is from April 12 through May 17.

A BYU assistant basketball coach — with BYU’s heritage and tradition — has to be a motivated, hardworking, knock-down-the-door recruiter, unafraid to go anywhere in the world. Or he isn’t delivering.

As I’ve said before, BYU’s staff is making a big mistake not hooking into prospects in Europe and South America. You don’t do that paying for recruiting services that scour Europe. It is done personally with contacts who trust you. Not establishing personal ties to Croatia, Latvia, Spain, France, Australia and Brazil with worldwide LDS faith connections could be called malpractice.

BYU has plenty of powerful allies overseas, including ties to Kresimir Cosic’s legacy through former Cougar Misho Ostarcevic, who lives in St. George. Ostarcevic is waiting for a call. Rose has had Brazilians play for him and work on his staff. What happened to that connection?

Some say it’s just too hard to get foreigners to buy into BYU’s honor code. Perhaps. On the other hand, that is the heavy lifting of recruiting at BYU. It isn’t easy. Doing easy isn’t going to get a WCC title or an NCAA berth anytime soon.

If Rose has received any message since the season ended, it is that he needs a cultural change on several fronts in his program.

The proof is in the pudding, a string of NIT appearances and playing second and third fiddle in the WCC.

That isn’t good enough at a school that just opened a fancy workout facility, gym and offices and plays in one of the biggest venues in the West.