Roger Reid was a fledgling high school coach in Utah when Frank Arnold called and hired him as an assistant BYU coach in 1977. That Arnold, 89, has passed, has hit Reid particularly hard.

Arnold guided BYU to the Elite Eight with a win over Notre Dame. He was a consummate gentleman. A professional all the way. He was a stickler for details, for the importance of rules and the importance of discipline. He changed lives.

Reid feels horrible about his mentor’s death this past weekend in Idaho. Funeral details are pending announcement by the family.

“First of all, I owe Frank a lot. He hired me and with all his connections at UCLA and so forth, he took a gamble with me, hiring me out of a high school coaching job. That showed me a lot of respect and I owe him a debt of gratitude for it. I don’t think I’d have ever become a college coach if it weren’t for Frank.”

Reid said Arnold’s passion and love for basketball stood out. He learned his trade from the best college coach that ever lived, the legendary John Wooden at UCLA.

Wooden hired Arnold to UCLA because Arnold had recruited players to Oregon that UCLA wanted. At that time, UCLA was a dynasty, winning NCAA championships like they were conference titles. Wooden was a little surprised when he didn’t get a recruit because of the successful run by the Bruins — thus he hired Arnold, according to Reid.

Arnold brought to BYU all he’d learned from the master, Wooden.

“He was a stickler for details. We had to be in the office every morning by 8 a.m. wearing a dress shirt and a tie and we wouldn’t leave until 5 p.m., and that meant the entire summer,” said Reid.

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Frank Arnold, who led BYU basketball to Elite Eight, dies at 89

“He was an amazing recruiter. He was especially effective on first visits in homes. They were unbelievable.”

Arnold believed in preparation. His practices centered on perfecting every aspect of the game. He would have the staff scout and break down opponents until they knew every move by every player and how each play developed so BYU could defend it.

“When game time came, we knew what every team was doing as soon as they’d begin to run something. We knew what each player’s skills were, from dribble to favorite shots and spots. I learned tremendous coaching skills from him.”

Arnold didn’t believe in shortcuts. He demanded players take care of academics and family and made it a priority that they have everything off the court in order before basketball. When it came to BYU’s honor code, he addressed that up front with recruits and their parents in detail and left nothing out, nothing to chance.

Reid said Arnold’s teams were so prepared, they could jump on a player or play before they made their moves on offense or defense. “He was a great technician.”

It took Arnold a few years to get his recruits in place. When he did, his team was elite. Fred Roberts, Greg Kite, Danny Ainge, Steve Trumbo, Greg Ballif, Steve Craig and others were tremendous athletes and some of his starters on that Elite Eight team went on to NBA careers.

BYU head coach Frank Arnold poses with his 1980-81 basketball team, which was the last Cougars team to reach the Elite Eight.
BYU head coach Frank Arnold, second from left, poses with his 1980-81 basketball team, the last Cougars team to reach the NCAA's Elite Eight. | BYU Photo

I was working as the sports editor at the Daily Universe when BYU hired Arnold. He showed me great respect as a rookie in the journalism business. He was kind, complimentary, honest to almost a fault and as dialed in as anyone I’ve ever met.

The last time I spoke to Arnold was about a year ago. While his mind was as sharp as ever, he apologized for his inability to express himself as he was gracious to give me the time and try to help with my request for an interview.

Arnold was an honorable, hardworking, intelligent coach who didn’t cut corners. I wonder what he’d make of today’s game with NIL and the transfer portal craziness of players switching teams like they would T-shirts and shoes.

I don’t think he’d like it. Neither would Wooden.

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Comments

But they’d find a way to work it.

That’s the kind of coaches they were.

Rest in peace, coach.

Prayers to your family who will miss you immensely.

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