“I think what he misses most,” his wife, Cheryl, said with a smile, “is hamburgers.”
“Burgers were the easiest thing to eat,” said the legendary BYU coach, who turned 62 on Dec. 19. “My diet’s different.”
That’s one of the many changes Rose has undergone since retiring after 14 seasons as the Cougars’ head coach last March.
A little more than six months after announcing his retirement, which blindsided most people, he suffered a severe heart attack, which blindsided them again. He underwent surgery, rehabbed and now says he he feels healthy and happy.
“Stuff does happen quick,” he said. “When you say, ‘heart attack,’ everyone goes, ‘Oh my gosh.’ But it was less than 48 hours in the hospital. When I went home, I was feeling so much better than when I went in, it’s like I went in for a tune-up.”
“I’m just glad he’s still here,” Cheryl said
These days, Rose, looking fit and lean, hears the same question from almost everybody he sees. “How are you feeling, Coach?”
And he usually responds in the same way, “I’m doing great. I feel really good.”
The events of the past few months have offered more clarity and perspective to the Roses this holiday season.
“It’s kind of crazy how things work. His retirement kind of caught us a little bit by surprise. It was something we had been thinking of. His feelings came about fairly suddenly,” Cheryl said. “Now we look back on everything that’s happened and it makes more sense. I couldn’t imagine if that would have happened while he was trying to coach. Not only for him but for the players — the impact that would have had on them and their season and worrying about their coach. It worked out the way it needed to.“
Since retirement, the Roses have dealt with the passing of Dave’s father, Jack, in April, after battling various forms of cancer.
“He was our biggest fan. He was at every game. I went to the Final Four, came back and we talked about the games,” Dave said. “I remember him saying, ‘Well, you’re not coaching anymore and I just got done watching the Final Four. There are no more basketball games.’ Five days later, he died. It was almost like he hung around long enough to see the end.”
The Roses have been busy spending time with their family as well as traveling to places like Italy, Houston, Maui and, most recently, Las Vegas, where they attended the National Finals Rodeo, something Dave could never have done while he was coaching. And they’ve attended most of the BYU basketball games this season.
The Roses are also in the process of building a new home. For now, they are “nomads,” as Cheryl put it, living in a rental home in Orem. Their son, Garrett, bought their previous house. Garrett has four sons and their daughter Chanell has four daughters. Another daughter, Taylor, lives with her husband in Portland. The Roses spend much of their time keeping up with them, going to the grandkids’ swim meets and basketball and football games.
During an hour-long interview over lunch with the Deseret News, the Roses opened up about their lives during retirement.
While Dave Rose is retired from coaching, it’s clear he’s not done with basketball.
“The game itself, it’s such a great thing. We’ll figure out some way to get involved in the game again,” he said. “After we get the house done, I’ve got to see what opportunities there are and pick the one that will fit the lifestyle that we want to have. I can still not only contribute to the game but be a part of it somehow.”
Another major health scare
Around 3:30 a.m. on Oct. 22, Rose noticed he was sweating and his fingers were going numb. Those symptoms, and the unrelenting pain, told him what was happening. He woke up Cheryl and told her that he was having a heart attack.
Staying composed, Cheryl drove her husband through the empty, early-morning roads to Utah Valley Hospital.
“It was shocking. I knew that I needed to get him to the hospital as quickly as I could,” Cheryl recalled. “I don’t really remember saying this, but he says that on the way to the hospital that I told him, ‘If you die right after you retire, ‘I’m going to kill you.’”
As Cheryl related that experience, they both laughed. But at the time, they both understood the seriousness of the situation.
Because it was so early in the morning, Rose didn’t have to wait long to be treated. The doctors quickly went to work to put stents in his heart.
“If this would have happened to me 10-12 years ago, they would have had to have done bypass surgery,” Dave said. “Now, they if they can get the wire in there and get it unclogged, then they put the stents in and send you home. It’s amazing. I’m glad I didn’t delay that. This was so out of the blue. I have my blood pressure and cholesterol checked. I never had any signs from that part of it. There’s history in my family. My dad had heart disease. Maybe I should have been more aware.”
Cheryl is grateful that everything went smoothly that morning.
“We had this initial panic with the heart attack of, is he going to make it through this moment?” Cheryl said. “But the doctors worked their magic.”
When he suffered the heart attack, the Roses had been home for only a few days after spending a month in Italy on vacation.
“We were on the Amalfi Coast and there wouldn’t have been a major hospital that could have handled him until Naples, which is an hour-and-a-half drive,” Cheryl said. “It would have been a whole different story if we would have been in Italy.”
After surgery, Rose participated in a 22-day cardiac rehab. His heart was hooked up to monitors while he worked out.
“When you’re on the treadmill, the guy next to you, you find out what happened to him,” he said. “A lot of those guys have had open heart surgery. It’s a whole different deal. A guy next to me one day had a triple bypass and two heart valves put in. He was looking like he could only go four or five minutes. For me, it was two weeks and I was going 35-40 minutes. It seemed, not normal, but just another injury that you go through and recover. Hopefully, now you take care of yourself and it doesn’t happen again.”
“Now he’s doing great. I can’t keep up with him,” Cheryl said. “We went for a walk in Maui and I was done. And he was still ready to go. He’s doing really well.”
Dave continues to work out diligently every day, paying close attention to his health.
“To this point, the doctors are pretty confident that the damage was not real significant. The crazy thing is that people when they see me say, ‘How are you feeling?’” he said. “I’m so far past that I’m wondering, ‘Do you think I have a cold? Do I look sick?’ I guess I’m used to it because people have been asking me that for 10 years.”
Yes, this isn’t the first time he’s dealt with a life-threatening illness. A decade ago, during the summer of 2009, Rose was diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. He recovered but continues to get scans periodically.
“If he were a cat, he’d be using up all of his nine lives,” Cheryl said. “My kids are a little concerned about that. My mom was a widow at 46. I remember when we went through that cancer thinking, am I going to be like my mom and lose my husband at a fairly young age?”
There have been similarities and differences between the two illnesses.
“When you mention cancer, you immediately think of your mortality. It becomes a real issue,” Dave said. “When you think of a heart attack, it’s the same thing. But there was so much pressure for me when I was diagnosed with cancer. Am I going to live? Then when I got a prognosis that was pretty manageable, when am I going to be able to coach again? That wasn’t in the equation this time.”
“Last time, it was just trying to hold him back. He wanted to get back with the team,” Cheryl said. “It was trying to keep him resting and recuperating. This time, he didn’t feel that sense of urgency to get somewhere or be somewhere. He could take the time he needed to recuperate.”
About a week after his heart attack, his replacement at BYU, Mark Pope, invited his mentor to practice. “It was such a lift for the guys and they were excited to see him,” Pope said at the time.
For Cheryl, the lessons learned from cancer were just like those learned from the heart attack.
“Sometimes we let the petty problems of everyday life get in the way of our relationships. We have to make the best of the days that we have here and our relationships with people,” Cheryl said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s a good reminder that I need to make every day count.”
Return to Houston
Naturally, the Roses still feel a close connection with many of the BYU players on the roster, including those he recruited and coached.
“It’s kind of unique because this group of guys, we went through a decade together. I started recruiting TJ (Haws) a long time ago,” he said. “I enjoy watching them play, especially now because they’re playing so well with so much confidence and so together. That’s really fun for us. People may not understand this but I miss the game, but I don’t really miss coaching.”
When the season tipped off in early November, the Roses drove together to a BYU basketball game for the first time.
“We were in the car and he said, ‘We need to stop and take this moment in,’” Cheryl said. “We were driving to a game together for the first time in 23 years. It was surreal and so great. When there was a timeout he’d say, ‘I didn’t know this was going on during the timeouts.’ He saw the cheerleaders doing flips and everything else that goes on. He’s seeing the game with a whole new perspective. I love it. We feel like the program couldn’t be in better hands. I couldn’t imagine a better coach’s wife than Lee Anne (Pope). She’s so good with those players. We feel good about the direction of the program. We’re there to cheer them on.”
For Cheryl, it’s been a thrill to sit by her husband at the games. “It’s so fun to listen to his take on the game,” she said.
In mid-November, Rose returned to the University of Houston, to watch BYU take on his alma mater at the Fertitta Center, where school officials took him on a behind-the-scenes tour of the renovated arena. He played there in the early 1980s as part of the famed Phi Slama Jama teams that played in back-to-back Final Fours and lost on a buzzer-beater in the 1983 title game to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State.
“That tour was tremendous. Before the game, we were eating with the chancellor. The athletic director was there. They were so nice,” Dave said. “Not for one second did they think we were going to beat them. I know that for sure because they were way too nice to us.”
The Roses, as special guests, sat on the front row as the Cougars played the Houston Cougars.
“They were all wearing red and I was wearing a blue blazer,” Dave said. “We led the whole game. We were in control.”
After a Houston rally, the game was tied with seconds remaining.
“I asked him, ‘Who’s going to take the final shot?’” Cheryl said. “Dave said, ‘TJ’s going to take the final shot and he’s going to make it.’”
Sure enough, BYU won in dramatic fashion as Haws hit the game-winning jumper at the buzzer.
“It was difficult because we were sitting by the university president,” Dave said. “When the guys came over to celebrate, we were right there.”
“We had to be subdued in the celebration,” Cheryl said. “I had tears. It was so fun and such an emotional thing. I can’t tell you how I’m proud I am of those kids. It’s so exciting for us to be fans.”
Anyone that coaches at BYU quickly learns the importance of the rivalry with the University of Utah.
Rose has some long-standing ties to the Utes. His parents are graduates of Utah and his dad, a musician, was a drum major for the Ute marching band.
“I grew up as a little kid with ‘Utah Man’ on the piano,” he said. “Every time we played the Utes, it reminded me of when I was 7 or 8 years old, marching around the house, my dad playing it on the piano.”
Years later, Rose would undergo cancer treatments at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah.
“Our perspective changed drastically after his cancer. It was crazy the number of Utah fans that reached out,” Cheryl said. “One of the first cards we got was from the MUSS (the Utah student section). ‘Coach, we’re always going to cheer for Utah but we’ll always cheer for you to beat this.’ There wasn’t that hatred towards them. He’s been up to Huntsman a lot. We’ve had amazing nurses and doctors that are graduates of Utah. They take such great care of us. That gives you a new perspective on the rivalry.”
Now that he’s no longer coaching, interactions with fans has been gratifying.
“People come up and thank us. I had a guy come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for your service.’ I never really looked at it like that. But if that’s what you want to say, I’ll go with it,” he said. “It’s been kind of fun. At the airport in Salt Lake, a lot of Ute fans will have a comment about my career or specific games over the years. It’s been really kind of overwhelming. The fans are tremendous. Every interaction that we’ve had in Utah County and in Salt Lake, whether a Ute fan or Aggie fan or Cougar fan, they have something nice to say. They’ll always frame it, ‘I hate BYU but you were a good coach.’ That’s been kind of fulfilling for us.”
Now, Rose can simply be a fan of all the teams in the Beehive State.
“I coached high school in the state for four years. I coached junior college in the state for four years. All during that time, I was cheering for Utah, Utah State and BYU. I wanted all the programs to be successful. So when you lock into one of them, it’s so polarizing. It’s kind of nice to be able to watch the games. I’ve had invitations to go to Utah to watch their games. I’m waiting for the right time to do that.”
After BYU’s special season in 2011, which ended with a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, Rose fielded job offers, including one from Utah. Ultimately, he decided to remain at BYU.
“It was really stressful,” he recalled. “There were so many things that go through your mind about what your kids want, what you want. You worry a little bit about your legacy. When I was involved with the Utah job, did I really want to be the guy that has an unbelievable team then use that to go to the rival school? When it came right down to it, I disappointed quite a few people by staying (at BYU) as far as what advice I got. But that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve never looked back.”
All three of the Roses’ children graduated from BYU. Dave’s siblings also graduated from BYU.
“Maybe had I coached at DePaul, it would have been more of a job than a life investment,” he said. “Now that I’ve been out of it for a while and I’ve heard stories of my kids and grandkids and the stress that they felt, how on game days they were so tense and tight, wanting good things to happen, I don’t know had I gone somewhere else that they would have felt that.”
Rose’s legacy — and his future
For 36 years, Rose coached basketball, either on the high school, junior college or Division I level. It’s not easy to escape that routine.
“There are times on game day that I’m thinking, ‘They’re having their team meal right now or shootaround,’” he said. “What I miss the most is the relationships with the players, staff and administration. It was such a big part of what you did every day.”
When they traveled to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational in November, one of the teams staying at their hotel, Dayton, arrived. Cheryl asked her husband how he would be feeling if he were still coaching.
“I would be looking at the teams walking around,” he replied. “I’d be thinking, ‘How are we going to beat this team? Are we going to win or lose?’”
But he doesn’t need to entertain those feelings anymore.
“It’s incredible how our whole life has changed without that stress. It was an amazing job but it was stressful,” Cheryl said. “More of the stress he put on himself than anyone put on him. He’s such a competitive guy and never wanted to lose at anything. It takes a toll over time — physically, mentally and emotionally. Our lives are so different.”
After watching BYU fall to No. 4 Kansas, the Roses went to dinner with family members.
“He would have never gone to dinner after a loss,” Cheryl said. “He would have been watching film.”
Now that he’s retired, he’s had time to reflect on his career. Rose won 348 games at BYU, second-most in BYU history, although in September the NCAA ruled that the school had to vacate 47 of those wins in connection with Nick Emery accepting impermissible benefits while playing — though neither Rose nor the school knew anything about it.
Rose guided the Cougars to four Mountain West Conference championships, eight appearances in the NCAA tournament, including the school’s second Sweet 16, and he coached the 2011 consensus NCAA Player of the Year, Jimmer Fredette.
As far as his legacy? He’ll leave that up to others to define.
“You don’t have much control over that. I hope it would be similar to the approach I had to the job — to work as hard as I can to do a good job for the university, the church, the players and the staff,” he said. “For me, I was just a guy that managed it and wanted it to be successful. When I got the job, I wanted BYU to be a national program and for us not to be good every couple of years but good every year and have great teams. We had some really good teams and we had some great teams.”
“For me, I feel like Dave did everything he wanted to do in coaching,” Cheryl said. “He didn’t leave anything undone.”
“I wanted to win more,” Dave said.
“For me, it was never about the wins. He won a lot, I know that. He won more than he lost,” Cheryl said. “But I couldn’t tell you what his record was. It was never about that for me. It was about the fact that he was doing a job that he loved. That’s what mattered the most to me. I feel like it was a chapter that we closed and that makes it easier to move on because there are no regrets. We’ve been fortunate to go on the Nike trip every year with coaches around the country. What I see is the amount of respect from those coaches toward him, that he was able to do this the right way. He was able to be as successful as he was within the parameters of the rules and he treated people with respect. In the home games this season, just about every coach has walked over and given him a big hug. Even the referees will come over and ask how he’s doing and wish him the best.”
The Roses’ dream house is close to being finished.
“It might be a little bigger than it needs to be but we designed the home when he was still coaching,” Cheryl said. “I kept saying, ‘This room needs to be bigger for when the team comes over.’ So the house kept stretching because of the team.”
Now, the house will host a different kind of team, including their three children and eight grandchildren.
The Roses will be spending a lot of time at home with their family and their lifestyle is much different from what they experienced for decades.
“We’re really blessed,” Cheryl said. “I don’t know how else to say it. We’re so happy.”
When Dave was a coach, Cheryl would look longingly out her window, watching other husbands coming home from work at the same time on weekdays and spending time with their families on weekends.
“I remember thinking, ‘I just want normal.’ We still don’t have normal,” she said. “I don’t think Dave and I will ever have normal. We don’t know what normal is.”
When their second-youngest grandson was preparing to be baptized, Dave was told the day of the occasion. He said, “We’ll be there.” There were no basketball-related conflicts to worry about.
“I’m so glad he’s still here and we can enjoy this time together and our family,” Cheryl said. “And we love BYU, we really do. We’re so grateful for the opportunities it gave us. We’ll be BYU fans for life.”
While he’s moved on from being a Cougar coach, Dave sees himself being involved in basketball again in some capacity at some point.
“I think that there’s so many different ways to be on a staff. They have advisers or consultants. I could see myself doing something similar to that. Maybe doing color on TV or radio. Those things intrigue me now. The feel of the gym on game day is something that I really miss,” he said. “I love being in the gym, especially on game night. The energy that’s in the gym from the fans and the players. I think that I’ll find a way to get back involved in the game because the game’s been so good to me and I love the game. The competitive part of the game has probably passed me but my abilities to enjoy the game and help others enjoy the game, we’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to what’s next.”
Before leaving the restaurant, an older couple dining at a nearby table recognized the coach and called him over.
“How are you feeling?” they asked.
“I’m doing great,” Rose said. “I feel really good.”