BYU assistant Cody Fueger is ‘100% ready to be a head coach right now,’ Mark Pope says
BYU assistant coach Cody Fueger has worked his way up the ranks in the profession, having served under legendary coaches like Rick Majerus, Dave Rose and Stew Morrill. He’s played a key role in recruiting, developing players and helping design an efficient offense under Mark Pope.
PROVO — During his basketball coaching career, BYU assistant Cody Fueger has served under, and learned from, a few of the best coaches that the Beehive State has ever produced — Utah’s Rick Majerus, BYU’s Dave Rose and Utah State’s Stew Morrill.
Now, Fueger is a key contributor to the success of Mark Pope’s program. In Pope’s first season, BYU posted a 24-8 record, finished with a No. 18 ranking and was projected to be a No. 6 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Pope believes Fueger is headed for big things in the future and he enjoys extolling Fueger’s virtues.
“He’s 100% ready to be a head coach right now. There’s no part of this job that he’s not fully capable of excelling in right now. It’s just going to be a matter of the right time and the right place,” Pope said.
“This guy is going to be a star in this coaching profession as soon as an (athletic director) gets smart enough to hire this cat because he’s incredible. That AD is going to look like a genius, but any AD that overlooked him in the past is going to feel like he blew it. Cody’s that good.”
Pope and Fueger (pronounced FEE-ger) have been together for more than seven years now — two as assistants at BYU, then four at Utah Valley University and this past season back in Provo. Under Pope, Fueger has played a key role in recruiting, developing players and helping design an efficient offense.
“When I took this job, I felt like I wouldn’t take it unless Cody is coming with me. He is really special,” Pope said. “Coach Majerus took him and made him a protege, starting from as ground floor as you could possibly get. Cody won his trust and started getting thrown more and more responsibilities. He was at four different stops as (a director of basketball operations) guy. He paid his dues in an extraordinary way. He’s been instrumental in everything that we’ve done. On a personal level, I love this guy so much. I’m so grateful to him. He’s been an extraordinary teammate in everything that we do. If there’s anything we get credit for as a staff, Cody’s in the middle of making that happen.”
The Cougars led the nation in 3-point shooting in 2019-20 and were one of the most efficient teams in the country.
“I knew coming into it that we had a bunch of shooters. Coach Pope came in and demanded a lot of things out of these guys and challenged them in every way,” Fueger said. “Shooting was one of the things that we really focused on this year and playing for your teammates — and confidence. All those things adding up made it spectacular.”
Among fans, Fueger may be the least-known assistant coach on BYU’s staff, which also includes Chris Burgess, who played at Duke and Utah; and Nick Robinson, who played at Stanford and was the head coach at Southern Utah from 2012-16.
But Fueger has earned respect around the country, both on the college and professional levels. During the summers of 2014 and 2017, Fueger worked for the Utah Jazz to help run the organization’s pre-draft workouts and free agent minicamps.
“When he was an assistant at Utah Valley, people in the business knew him so well that the Jazz chose three assistants every year to work their free agent camp,” Pope said. “They chose an assistant from Arizona, one from Florida State and one from Utah Valley. Go figure. That’s how well respected Cody is inside the profession. His name may not be that well known publicly yet but inside the basketball profession, they know he’s really special.”
Fueger is certainly not underrated to those who know him, Pope said.
“Everybody that’s inside this program, that’s part of it every day, knows that he is maybe the biggest key to everything we’re doing. He’s contributed to every part of this program. Coach Fueger’s recruiting is relentless. He gets us involved with every single player out there. We do all of our recruiting together. He knows me so well and what we do so well and he’s so good at reaching out to these kids and building relationships with them. He has such a reach in Europe right now. We’re really trying to find a spot there. He’s been unbelievable with this transfer portal. He’s a big-time recruiter. He can get into a conversation with anybody in the country.”
Former BYU star Jake Toolson transferred from UVU in large part due to Fueger. Guard Brandon Averette recently signed with the Cougars after transferring from UVU and Fueger played a role in Averette’s decision to join BYU.
“BYU’s a special place. We have to turn every single stone. It takes a certain type of kid to make it here. The hardest part is not being able to get kids on campus (during the pandemic). Like coach Pope says, ‘That’s our job. We can’t blame it on anything. We’ve got to figure it out.’” — Cody Fueger
“BYU’s a special place. We have to turn every single stone. It takes a certain type of kid to make it here,” Fueger said about recruiting to BYU. “The hardest part is not being able to get kids on campus (during the pandemic). Like coach Pope says, ‘That’s our job. We can’t blame it on anything. We’ve got to figure it out.’”
Senior guard Alex Barcello has developed a strong relationship with Fueger in the year since Barcello transferred to BYU from Arizona. Barcello gives a lot of credit to Fueger for what he was able to accomplish last season.
“Most of the work I did was with coach Fueger. The amount of time he’ll spend with his players to develop them and to get them to their highest potential is a huge blessing to have in a program,” he said. “I don’t think you can find those kinds of coaches at any program. It’s a special coach that’s willing to go over film before and after every single practice if you want — whatever time of day. You want to wake up early and watch film or if you want to get some shots up or talk about different offensive concepts, he’s always willing to help.”
Last year, Fueger noticed something about Barcello’s shooting follow-through during practices.
“Sometimes when I got hot, I had a tendency to pull my follow-through and yank it down. He kept ingraining it in my mind to hold my follow-through. He said, ‘You’ll shoot at a more efficient rate.’ It kept working,” Barcello said. “Every game that I saw it work, I would look at him and smile. You know how much that moment meant to him and meant to me because he would wrap his arm around me and he knew that what he was telling me was working and it was successful. Seeing that trust was a really special thing to see between us. He’s definitely one of the people that’s helped me grow this past year.”
Barcello shot 48% from 3-point range last season and will be one of the leaders of next season’s team.
“On a player level, he develops long-lasting and meaningful relationships with the players. He doesn’t do it because he tells these guys what they want to hear,” Pope said of Fueger. “He’s really honest and tough and demanding. All these guys know they deeply care about him. There’s no better example of that than Jake Toolson. He transferred from UVU to BYU in large part because Cody was here. They had such an incredible working relationship.”
Fueger and Toolson spent a lot of time together talking about, and analyzing, Toolson’s game.
“Half the time you see Jake walk out of Cody’s office so upset and frustrated and angry. But then 30 minutes later, you see those guys with their arms around each other on the court,” Pope said. “That is the beauty of Cody and why he’s so good at developing players. He can bond with them and really push them and they still want to come back for more. That’s because these guys know he really cares about them. He’s an extraordinary player development guy. He’s been a lynchpin of developing our philosophy as a staff over the last five years. We’ve really been able to grow together in that way. He has an unbelievable background in this game.”
Though he’s not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Fueger is comfortable at BYU and he’s established a strong reputation for his work ethic and his ability to convey his insights with both players and coaches.
“He’s thrown his heart and soul into this every single day. He’s been a blessing to me because he’s going to tell me when I’m totally sideways. He’ll say, ‘Coach, you’re wrong here.’ He’s not scared to do that,” Pope said. “He’s also going to be incredibly supportive when I need to sort myself out. He’s going to quietly be supportive. He’s great at reading on a personal level about my needs to try to figure out how to be more successful as a head coach. That’s one of the pieces of a great assistant.”
Fueger started his coaching career as the video coordinator and student assistant at Utah from 2002-07. He moved on to become the director of basketball of operations at Louisiana Tech under former Ute assistant Kerry Rupp, who is now an assistant at Oregon State.
From there, he had stints as director of basketball operations at UC Riverside (2011-12), Utah State (2012-13) and BYU (2013-15) before becoming an assistant under Pope at UVU (2015-19).
“He’s bringing perspectives from Dave Rose, Stew Morrill, Rick Majerus and coach (Rupp),” Pope said. “He’s bringing all of that background to us to sift through and cull through. He’s got a high basketball IQ. In terms of schematics, he brings so much to our team. In terms of the successes that we’ve had statistically and in terms of efficiency offensively and defensively and wins and losses, he’s had a hand in every single ounce of what we’ve done the past five years.”
For Pope, it’s rewarding to watch the progress of his assistant coaches.
“In terms of coaching and the profession, clearly, it’s all about these players and helping grow a program. But there’s something incredibly gratifying about seeing guys from your camp go on and crush it,” he said. “I have three assistants that are ready and primed to take head coaching jobs. Cody is clearly the most experienced of them all. It’s going to be fun for me and for BYU fans to watch these guys grow in their coaching careers knowing that they have such strong allegiance and love for BYU because of what we’re doing right now.”