Now out of NBA playoffs, Kevin Young couldn't be more 'locked in' on BYU, assistant says

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PROVO — Kevin Young's time as associate head coach of the Phoenix Suns came to a close Monday night with a 122-116 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, eliminating the Suns from the NBA playoffs.

Now he only has one job: BYU men's basketball coach.

But the first-time college head coach has been wearing multiple hats for the past two weeks, since he was introduced as the Cougars' 19th head coach in program history. Between retaining his roster, pulling players out of the transfer portal, and recruiting high school prospects — all of which he's done — there have been plenty of midnight phone calls with the lone assistant coach on his staff.

It's a good thing he and Brandon Dunson vibed together.

"Kevin has tried to put everything he can into this program during this time," Dunson told, joking that his boss has been getting "3-4 hours of sleep per week" while navigating the playoffs and college basketball offseason. "He's been locked in. … We've been trying to get things locked in with our own guys, with the portal, with staffing, all on top of him trying to overcome a deficit in the playoffs. He's been working his tail off, and I've been here trying to be supportive of that."

Dunson has spent most of his college basketball life on the west coast, so he's familiar with BYU and its program. The Cardinal scrimmaged the Cougars each of the past two seasons in closed-door scrimmages, so he even scouted the most recent roster.

He's earned a reputation as a dogged recruiter, helping develop Caleb Martin, Cody Martin and Jalen Harris to Nevada when he was an assistant under Eric Musselman six years ago, and landing McDonald's All-American Andrej Stojakovic and top-40 prospect Kanaan Carlyle to Stanford most recently.

But when it came to knowing Young, Dunson was in the dark — until about three weeks ago.

The former Cardinal assistant took a trip to Phoenix to meet with the Suns associate head coach during the NBA playoffs, and though the two weren't best of friends before, they quickly connected.

"It just felt like something that fit," Dunson said. "From a basketball perspective, I've been with NBA guys before and continuing to learn and grow from that perspective was attractive to me. But most important was a personality fit; he's a very values-driven person and that was important to me. Most of the decisions I've made in my life have been based on doing the right things, having synergy with my co-workers, getting the right vibe, and that's what I got from him."

Dunson has been coaching for around a decade, but he's already earned a reputation as one of the top recruiters on the west coast.

Yet when it came down to re-recruiting the Cougars' current roster — especially point guard Dallin Hall and key bench spark Richie Saunders out of the transfer portal — Dunson gives most of the credit to Young, whom he joked has been operating on 2-3 hours of sleep per night while pulling double duty with the Suns and BYU.

Re-recruiting his own roster was just the first priority for Young. It was "priority No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3," a personal mission, Dunson said.

BYU men’s basketball head coach Kevin Young announced Tuesday the addition of former Stanford assistant Brandon Dunson as his first assistant coach since being hired in Provo.
BYU men’s basketball head coach Kevin Young announced Tuesday the addition of former Stanford assistant Brandon Dunson as his first assistant coach since being hired in Provo. (Photo: Courtesy, BYU Athletics)

"As the head coach, he wanted to get those two guys back," he added. "Dealing with recruiting – especially transfers and older guys – the most important words come from the head coach. He took a very strong leadership role, and was able to show them how much he cares.

"Even with NIL, there is still a limited resource for head coaches and that's time. He put his time in and spent it where he thought it was best used, and that was getting those guys back in the fold."

Trevin Knell and Noah Waterman were instrumental in keeping the roster together, and BYU has only lost center Aly Khalifa to Louisville, Atiki Ally Atiki to the transfer portal, and Jaxson Robinson to the NBA draft since Young took over.

In many ways, Young and Dunson recruiting the current roster was the same as they recruit high school players like four-star forward Brody Kozlowski or any transfer portal addition — but with one key difference.

They are loved by this community, they know what it is, and there may be some changes in style of play — but they know that (playing for BYU) means something," Dunson said. "Where I came from at Stanford, we had a similar situation; most schools are just in one year and out the next. But at BYU, this is a community, and going to school here matters.

"It's not just about basketball," he added, "but something much bigger than that. We wanted to make sure these guys still had an opportunity to capitalize on that and be the cornerstones of our program."

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