Bronco and Basketball, etc.



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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Regarding the Bronco Mendenhall "story" on ESPN Wednesday: no smoke, no fire.

Whether or not a source was accurate in reporting UCLA would like to talk to Bronco, I am positive the head coach of the Cougars isn't interested in making his way to Westwood.

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I spent some time with Bronco Wednesday in preparation for our "Return of the Champions" bowl special next week, and in the course of our conversation, he said two things, that while not UCLA-related, can be applied to the rumor mill scenario.

In talking about teams "dropping" games with other schools, and whether he would consider doing the same to manage future schedules, he told me "a contract is binding, and if I would like our players to keep their word, what kind of coach would I be if I set a different example?" The comment is telling, in that Bronco recently signed a contract that binds him to BYU through the 2011 season, and I know he not only takes his commitment seriously, but he acknowledges the financial and security commitment BYU and its supporters have made to him.

When I asked him if this is the happiest he has been in his coaching career, he told me "I'm maybe the most happy I've ever been in my life." He went on to talk of the partnership he has shared with his wife and the experiences he has shared with his family that have been unique to his position at BYU.

In short, at no point did I get the impression that Bronco was committed to anything else other than continuing to grow a program of which the school, his church and the worldwide legion of Cougar fans can be proud.

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That isn't to say Bronco doesn't experience frustrations in his post, many of them related to the current college football landscape and BYU's position on the national stage (read: exclusion from the BCS and lack of national TV exposure).

But, Bronco is committed to practively seeking solutions to the frustrations, whether it be through tactical scheduling or forward-thinking approaches to conference alignment and BCS eligibility.

I'm confident that not only is Bronco going to be the long-haul head coach of the Cougars, but that he will not quietly abide any situation that prevents his team from achieving results at the highest level the "system" allows.

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As has been reported, Bronco told me that he and AD Tom Holmoe have suggested to UCLA that the two schools "push back" their game scheduled for next season, to avoid having the teams meet three times in 12 months. Bronco says he hasn't heard back, and isn't going to worry about it a great deal. He says if the game goes off as planned, he'll be excited and it'll be a great home game.

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You can hear Bronco's thoughts on the above issues and listen to him retrace the season that was during our one-hour special, "Return of the Champions," Thursday, December 20th at 7:00pm--live from Broadcast House and Sam Boyd Stadium.

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Now to the BYU Basketball team, and the remarkable roll on which they remain at the Marriott Center. Last night's methodical win over Lamar makes it 36 consecutive home wins, tying Memphis for the top spot nationally.

Dave Rose made his first lineup change of the season, and it's tough to argue with its effectiveness. In benching Jonathan Tavernari and starting Chris Collinsworth, Rose achieved two primary objectives: putting a taller player at the "4" spot who by his ability to rebound would create additional shot opportunities, and by bringing JT off the bench, he gave BYU some scoring punch off the pine.

Collinsworth ended up with 6 rebounds (4 offensive) in only 15 minutes of play (he added 5 points), while JT scored 11 (9 in the first half, when he shot 4 of 7 from the field).

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Coach Rose said JT was in favor of whatever would help the team, but it's clear Tavernari struggled to adapt to his new role, at least on this night. He was borderline insolent at one stage of the game, and was kind of mopey on the bench.

It's easy to understand Tavernari's state of mind, but have no doubt, Coach Rose will address the issue of JT's disposition and make sure he's "on the same page" as the season moves forward.

JT is a unique and occasionally spectacular player, but also a sensitive, mercurial player and a guy whose emotions are closely tied to his performance. He has struggled with his shot through 10 games, shooting under 40% both from the field and the arc. But his talents will continue to emerge as he matures and wins the confidence of his coaches and teammates. Tavernari is too good a guy and too good a player to let this hurdle send his season into a tailspin. Have faith in JT--he'll turn it around.

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