SALT LAKE CITY — Often the case in these types of situations, the process to hire the basketball coach at BYU has taken several interesting turns. But in the end, it looks like the top choice will take the job.
Even before Dave Rose announced his retirement two weeks ago, Mark Pope was considered the heavy favorite to take over the program. Rose’s former assistant checks all the boxes, including his religious affiliation and having spent the last four seasons as the Utah Valley University head coach.
Pope, who has drawn strong support from some big-money boosters, reportedly was interested in a job with a higher national profile than BYU. But the hiring process at the church-sponsored school takes time, involving a series of interviews that extend well beyond the athletic administration.
Most importantly, BYU needed to hire a coach with a passion to be at the school. Given all the rules and stipulations associated with BYU, the new coach must have a complete buy-in.
Over the last 30 years, the three coaches BYU hired – Roger Reid, Steve Cleveland and Rose – all wanted the job. In addition to the Pope process, Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen declined further interest in the job after an initial interview.
Tim LaComb, who spent the last 12 years on Rose’s staff, likens recruiting to hiring a coach. The key component, he said, is the desire to be at BYU.
“First and foremost, when you’re recruiting a kid you don’t ever want to try to arm wrestle and talk him into coming,” LaComb said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network. “There has to be a genuine interest with the kid, and the kid has to understand it’s a great place and we can be good.
"But when we got into wrestling matches and spent more time talking to him about why he should come even though he doesn’t really want to, it didn’t always work out good. I think the same can be said for the coaching job.”
In addition to Pope, BYU also considered Los Angeles Lakers assistant Mark Madsen, Portland State coach Barret Peery and Quincy Lewis, who was on Rose’s staff and is serving as the interim head coach. All three likely wouldn’t hesitate to take the job.
But by far, Pope is the most qualified for the job, having played on a national championship team at Kentucky and also in the NBA. He also served as an assistant at Georgia and Wake Forest.
“He’s really qualified,” Cleveland said during an interview on The Zone Sports Network. “I believe that if he wants the job, he’s the very best fit. That’s no disrespect to the other pool of candidates.’
Athletic director Tom Holmoe could follow the path he took in 2005 in hiring a relatively unknown assistant as the new football coach. Holmoe elevated Bronco Mendenhall, overturning a decision to promote the more experienced Lance Reynolds.
Like Mendenhall, who lifted BYU to great success in his 11 years, Lewis would be a surprise hire. He also could remain on the staff as an assistant.
“He’s a really bright mind,” Cleveland said. “Yeah, there’s some things he hasn’t done — other than maybe Mark Pope all of them haven’t done this before. Quincy is really qualified. He understands the game (on) both ends. I’ve had intimate conversations with him. He’s a bright, bright guy and he gets along well with people. I have no doubt that he could go out and recruit and represent the institution.”
Highly successful during 12 seasons at Lone Peak High, Lewis came to BYU in 2015. He’s also been an assistant at Utah Valley, Southern Utah and BYU-Hawaii.
Prioritizing name recognition, Madsen deserved consideration. But he has no official connection to BYU, having played at Stanford and then in the NBA, and never has been a head coach.
Madsen, whose parents and in-laws live in the area, has made his interest in the job known to BYU officials. He certainly would offer the sizzle that would excite the fan base.
“We know all the character traits of Mark Madsen because he’s been in the public eye for a long time,” said Cleveland.