SALT LAKE CITY — Years ago, after another unsuccessful attempt to land a head coaching job, Dave Rose wondered if his past as a junior college coach had left him tainted in the eyes of athletic directors.
To put it mildly, junior college basketball lacks the stacks of rules that permeate the Division I level. Despite enjoying success as a head coach at then-JC Dixie College and also as an assistant at BYU, the qualified Rose was thwarted in achieving his goal.
In his typical fashion, instead of wasting time wallowing in a pity party, Rose stayed the course and kept his all-out assault of a work ethic. In time, his break came when his boss, Steve Cleveland, resigned at BYU and went home to coach at Fresno State.
As often happens, great things come to those who earn them through diligence and effort. In the case of Rose, boy, did they ever.
In 14 years at BYU, Rose guided the Cougars to four regular-season Mountain West championships and three times was named the conference's coach of the year. He won nearly 70% of his games, highlighted by a 2011 appearance in the Sweet 16, a distinction BYU had not reached in 30 years.
Along the way, Rose overcame every obstacle that impeded his way. No surprise there, if you know the man.
Two years after retiring, Rose faces another roadblock. This time it is for real.
Last week, at age 63, he suffered a stroke that had serious long-term ramifications. Somber family and friends know Rose faces a long road of rehabilitation.
Calling upon history as an indication, don't bet against him. This ultimate competitor already beat back pancreatic cancer more than a decade ago and then battled back from a heart attack in 2019.
Even as the future remains uncertain, this man's spirit won't allow him to give up without the greatest fight any serious health condition has ever seen.
"I know he's had some really good days the last couple of days," Cleveland said on Monday during his weekly appearance on The Zone Sports Network. "He's making progress. He's a fighter.
"We all believe in Dave. He's a very good friend, very loyal. I will forever be grateful for our friendship. It's not like we talk every week, it's not that way, but we've had memories together that you only have in this business — good ones and bad ones, difficult times and some really great times.
"I love Dave. I love his family, and God bless him. Hopefully, things continue to go down the road they are now. There's no guarantees, but he has a special place in my heart."
Cleveland is not alone in his sentiments, as tributes have poured in across the country in support of Rose. Anyone aware of the ladder he climbed can't help but appreciate his success.
After spending three years as a hustle player and co-captain on those great University of Houston teams in the early 1980s, Rose started his coaching career at Millard High in the lonely outpost of Fillmore, Utah. From there, he served stints as an assistant at Pine View High and Dixie College before becoming the head coach at Dixie.
Despite barely knowing each other, Cleveland felt impressed to hire Rose as his lead assistant after getting the job in 1997. Taking over a program that bottomed out to a 1-25 season in 1996-97, the duo needed only four years to get BYU into the NCAA Tournament.
"There's a personal side to Dave that I always really appreciated," Cleveland said. "He had the ability to connect with people, like I felt I did. I wanted to get a staff of people that could really connect with kids, and I felt we did that. I think that was one of Dave's greatest strengths. Obviously, he had a good basketball mind."
On a personal note, over 37 years in the business, Rose is one of the best people I've ever known. Get well, my friend.