SALT LAKE CITY — The status quo was no longer acceptable, not after a season full of disappointments relative to the overhyped expectations.
Changes were in store this offseason for the BYU men’s basketball team, which had planned on challenging Gonzaga for supremacy in the West Coast Conference. Instead of reaching the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, the Cougars ended their season with an embarrassing loss at home in the first round of the NIT.
From the personnel standpoint, BYU’s roster has undergone the usual offseason shakeup, as happens in virtually every college basketball program. The biggest loss will be center Eric Mika, who is staying in next month’s NBA draft.
The most significant addition came on the coaching staff. Coach Dave Rose replaced longtime assistant Terry Nashif with Heath Schroyer, who spent four years at BYU on Steve Cleveland’s original staff beginning in 1997.
Schroyer brings a wealth of experience, having served three stints as a Division I head coach. Noted for his expertise at coaching defense, he is expected to take over as the lead assistant coach.
In short, Schroyer’s depth of experience will allow him to challenge the ways Rose has run his program the last several years. He was the coach at Portland State, Wyoming and Tennessee-Martin in addition to serving as an assistant at BYU, Wyoming, Fresno State, UNLV and North Carolina State.
“I’ve been 'round the block now,” said Schroyer, who was 25 years old when he first came to BYU. “I’m coming in from a different point of view from where I was 20 years ago.”
Since leaving the Mountain West for the WCC in 2011, BYU’s program has become relatively stagnant. After making the NCAA Tournament the last five years in the MWC, including earning the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance in 30 years, BYU has not made the tournament in three of the last five seasons.
With highly touted recruits finally on the team at the same time, BYU never found consistency last season. Lowlights included miserable defensive performances in losses to Utah Valley and Pepperdine. After the season, athletic director Tom Holmoe and Rose held a lengthy meeting to discuss the state of the program.
In an interview on 97.5-FM and 1280-AM The Zone, Schroyer said he would take on any coaching duties that Rose saw fit. Expect him to focus on defense, with Rose taking a more active role in coaching the offense.
“Wherever Coach Rose sees fit and whatever he wants me to do that he thinks brings value to the program, I’ll be glad to do it,” Schroyer said.
“Dave has been very open with me about just coming in and just sharing my experiences and trying to help get better in any aspect of the program that he sees fit. They’ve averaged 25 wins in the last 12 years, so, obviously, the program is in a really good (spot). I’m just excited to be back and excited to try it help the goals that coach Rose has for it.”
Having coached in several parts of the country, Schroyer brings a wealth of recruiting connections. He’s already helped in getting junior college point guard Jahshire Hardnett, who recently signed with BYU.
Schroyer also becomes the first full-time non-LDS assistant coach since Dave Rice left the program in 2011.
“BYU is a national brand,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a unique place and it’s not for everybody. But I think it definitely has a brand and is definitely a place that can be a good fit for a lot of kids.
“This program can fit a lot of kids,” he added. “I understand the program. I understand the culture. I understand the mission of the university.”
With several opportunities and having turned down at least one job as an assistant at a program in a more prestigious conference, Schroyer chose BYU because of his relationship with Rose, who also was on Cleveland’s original staff. Schroyer, who has a special-needs son, also thought BYU was an excellent fit for his family.
“I think at this point in my career and at this point in my life working for some(one) I know, and probably more importantly that really knows me, is something that is really important to me,” he said.