SALT LAKE CITY — For 22 seasons that included the previous 14 as head coach, Dave Rose was on Brigham Young’s bench, creating a legacy daunting for anyone daring enough to follow.
Eight NCAA Tournament appearances and five in the National Invitation Tournament. Second in school history with 348 victories and first in winning 72 percent of his games. Four conference championships and three Coach of the Year awards.
Mark Pope, who knows something about storied programs having served as the captain on Kentucky’s 1996 national championship team, stepped into Rose’s spot at BYU, a move he termed as “awesome and stupid.”
“In this profession, you never take a job after John Wooden, and that’s what I did and that’s not smart,” said Pope, spent the four prior seasons at Utah Valley and went a combined 48-21 in his final two years. “(Rose) is one of the best ever to coach here and one of the best in college basketball, and obviously had an unbelievable tenure. All he did was win and win and win, but he also built an incredible program that’s got a lot of legs and a lot of juice, and that’s a gift to the rest of us.”
Pope, 47, has a BYU team that is 6-4 heading into Saturday’s noon game against UNLV (4-6) at Vivint Smart Home Arena, the usual home for the Utah Jazz. The Cougars are No. 61 in the Kenpom rankings, compared to No. 154 for the Rebels.
But BYU didn’t have 6-foot-8-inch senior forward Yoeli Childs for the first nine games because he was suspended by the NCAA for not filing the proper paperwork before hiring an agent. He had declared for the 2019 NBA draft before removing his name and returning to BYU.
With Childs finally in the lineup, the Cougars were dominant Wednesday at Utah in taking a 14-point lead in the second half. He scored 29 points in 25 minutes on 12-of-16 shooting. But Childs left in the game late with an injury, and the Cougars went on to lose 102-95 in overtime.
Pope said Childs didn’t practice Thursday, and his status was uncertain for the game against UNLV. The question, Pope said, is whether Childs is recovering from a severe cramp or a strained calf muscle.
“It’s kind of day by day,” Pope said.
With Childs, BYU looks like an NCAA Tournament team, and taking the Cougars there certainly would create a smooth succession for Pope in taking over for Rose.
Pope didn’t go into this job blind. In addition to coaching at Utah Valley, he was a BYU assistant coach from 2011 to 2015, replacing Dave Rice when he left to coach the Rebels. Pope’s wife, Lee Anne, is the daughter of the late Lynn Archibald, who coached Utah from 1983 to 1989 and was on BYU’s staff from 1994 to 1997.
She also was David Letterman’s personal assistant in the 1990s, and Pope got to see what star power was about when tagging along with her in New York.
“It was so fun because she had the run of the city,” Pope said. “People didn’t care that I was with the Knicks. She got to know New York in a way that very few people do, and it was pretty cool. Dave was so good to her, so it was an unbelievable experience.”
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