OREM — Over lunch Tuesday, BYU coach Dave Rose and his Utah Valley counterpart, Mark Pope, concocted a contingency plan for when they move on from coaching.
The idea hatched as the friends stood side-by-side sporting their school logos, plastic gloves and smiles in a Subway restaurant assembly line. The good-spirited coaches took time out of their busy schedules to help make sandwiches for a good cause — raising awareness and support for the fight against cancer.
“We’re thinking about getting a store,” Rose said. “He would own it. I would work in it.”
That setup would be a practical one. Pope piled on the condiments and veggies so high it led Rose to joke that they were “losing money on every sandwich.” Rose, however, considers himself “more of an artist” and definitely friendlier to the store’s bottom line.
The bottom line in this situation is that Rose and Pope hope to get the word out that donations can be made at Subway checkouts, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the local Coaches vs. Cancer program, a collaboration of the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
This is personal for Rose, who first battled pancreatic cancer in 2009 and fought it away again in 2013 through more aggressive treatment with the Huntsman Cancer Institute specialists at the University of Utah.
Now Rose helps thwart cancer whenever he can — and not just for himself.
“It’s two-fold for me,” Rose said in reference to participating in this sandwich-making opportunity. “Raising money for cancer awareness is something that my wife Cheryl and I committed to trying to help — help the fight.
“And then the chance to connect with Mark again. December, January and February are pretty long months (for college coaches), and you don’t really get out of your circle, so it’s fun to get down here with him and just spend an hour or two trying to do something good for the community and for health care.”
The local Coaches for Cancer chapter raised $27,000 last year, Pope said. He noted that everybody is touched by cancer in one way or another, so it's good to help. Pope was Rose’s assistant at BYU — from 2011-15 — when the longtime Cougar head coach had to deal with his cancer a second time.
“It makes a tiny dent. Every little bit helps,” Pope said. “And it’s important.”
Being with Rose made it all the better.
“The fact that we can do this for a day is really special,” Pope said. “Selfishly, the fact that I get to come here to be with Coach for an hour and try to make him feel guilty for coming to my gym and beating us by 30 this year — and trying to collect words of wisdom — is also an added benefit.”
Rose’s Cougars did throttle UVU 85-58 in Orem earlier this season, but Pope’s Wolverines stunned BYU 114-101 at the Marriott Center the previous year. For the record, Pope thinks Rose probably has the edge on him in the sandwich-making game, too.
“I actually had been claiming that I’m the best,” Pope said. “But I saw him put together a flatbread double-bacon egg sandwich — and when he put the condiments on, it was like a piece of art. It was amazing. I’ve got to give the nod to Coach.”
Kelly Miller was one of the patrons who ate a Rose-designed piece of edible art. The Utahn is also a cancer survivor, having survived osteogenic sarcoma after the bone cancer resulted in a leg amputation. While she was recovering from that as a child she was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. She credits cancer research for helping improve the survival rate for osteogenic sarcoma from 20 percent to 80 percent and for giving doctors options to avoid amputation in children (using cadaver bones or titanium, for instance).
“It has just flipped. The statistics have completely changed places, which — aaaahhhh!!! — gets me excited. That’s why I do this (help fundraise). Research is the most important key.”
Getting influential people like these two college coaches certainly helps take the awareness to another level.
Pope jokingly called his entire NBA career — with Indiana, Milwaukee and Denver for most of 1997-2005 — “a Subway sandwich fiesta.” He was single at first, traveled a lot and was frugal, so he opted to the fast-food store for a sandwich instead of ordering a $60 burger from room service at the Four Seasons. He was such a Subway savant that he had at least one sandwich shop plotted out from the team hotel in every NBA city. Some of the Pacers stars — particularly Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson — teased the NBA newcomer about his culinary choice. When they spotted a Subway from the team bus, they’d joke with him, “Pope! There you go!”
This Subway was a stone’s throw away from student housing at Wolverine Crossing and across I-15 from his university’s campus.
Rose didn’t mind being in enemy territory. He got a chance to help make a sandwich for former BYU center Isaac Neilson, now a Wolverine, and his coaching staff made the quick trip to support him, too.
“It was fun,” the BYU coach said. “We had a good time.”