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BYU men's basketball: Mark Pope hints he's already closing in on finalizing coaching staff

Eric Williams, Rice Athletics
Eric Williams, Rice Athletics
Erik Williams

PROVO — The speculation on BYU's new head basketball coach ended on Wednesday, with the focus turning to who new Cougar coach Mark Pope will bring in as his assistants. For those looking for clues, Pope offered a big one when asked about his new staff during a press conference held at BYU Wednesday.

"I'm actually pretty far down the road with assistants," Pope said. "...I've been blessed to work with a great staff at (Utah Valley University) and I think we have a really good idea of where we're going with that."

Indeed the first place to look for potential assistants is with Pope's now-former staff at UVU, and considering Pope's comments that he's far along in assembling a staff, it would appear likely that at least one of his UVU assistants will follow him to Provo.

All three of Pope's UVU assistants attended Wednesday's press conference, with coaches Cody Fueger and Chris Burgess both showing up with their spouses. Pope pointed Burgess out specifically and praised his ability to coach up post players, often referred to as "bigs."

"You talk about a guy who can develop bigs. It's extraordinary how he developed our bigs," Pope said. "It's by relentlessly being there every single day and reviewing film every single day."

Yes, Burgess is the former BYU recruit who ultimately chose to sign with Duke back in 1996, thereby ushering in then-BYU coach Roger Reid's infamous comment that Burgess had "let down 9 million Mormons" by not signing with the Cougars. Burgess finished out his playing career at Utah before spending 11 years playing overseas, and then his spot on Pope's coaching staff became his first official coaching post at the collegiate level.

Fueger served as Pope's top assistant at UVU and previously worked in assistant positions at Utah, Utah State and UC Riverside.

Rounding out Pope's staff at UVU was Eric Daniels, who is the son of current Gonzaga assistant coach Donny Daniels. He worked as a video analyst for the Orlando Magic before joining Pope at UVU, and before that worked as an assistant at Regis and at Southern Utah.