Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
The last time Steve Cleveland was on the same floor with the BYU Cougars was in Denver on March 10th, 2005, as the Cougars lost to New Mexico, 85-71, in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
Saturday in Fresno, Cleveland will stand on the sideline opposite the Cougars as BYU battles Fresno State in the first meeting between BYU's former bench boss and his longtime assistant Dave Rose.
I talked with Coach Cleveland for a few minutes this morning, and you can hear that interview by clicking on the interview link in the "Cougar Cuts" box to the lower right.
It will become evident as you listen to the interview that Cleveland cherished his eight years as BYU's head coach, calling his time in Provo "a great experience" and a "very special time." He credited Dave Rose for taking BYU Basketball "to another level," following the effort to rebuild Cougar hoops in the wake of a 1-25 season.
Chris Miles is the only player on the current BYU roster who ever played for Cleveland, but then-high school senior Jackson Emery signed with Cleveland before his departure, and as "Coach Cleve" reminded me this morning, Jonathan Tavernari verbally committed to Cleveland as a high school junior--so even though almost five years have passed, ties remain between Cleveland and the current Cougars.
Cleveland hired both Dave Rose and John Wardenburg as his assistants, coached current BYU assistant and former BYU point guard Terry Nashif, and knows current associate head coach Dave Rice very well, so Cleveland remains very close with the entire BYU coaching staff.
BYU Athletics administrators Tom Holmoe and Brian Santiago are still in place, and Cleveland thanked them and Dave Rose for facilitating Saturday's game in Fresno--the front end of a home-and-home that came about after a planned neutral court meeting in Los Angeles fell through.
I think you'll enjoy something I have planned for our pregame coverage of BYU and Fresno State on Saturday night. Our "Pregame Coach's Show" (heard 30 minutes before tipoff; 7:30pm this Saturday) will feature my usual gameday interview with Dave Rose, but in a change of pace appropriate for the occasion, I will involve Steve Cleveland and conduct a "joint interview" with the two coaches together.
I hope to do as little talking as possible and let coaches Rose and Cleveland interact as they reminisce and then preview Saturday night's contest. It should be a fun interview, and I'm looking forward to the conversation, not to mention the game itself.
I trust that all BYU Basketball fans are truly grateful for Steve Cleveland and his contributions. He was the right man at the right time in the basketball program's history, and he did many things that continue to pay dividends today--not the least of which was to hire Dave Rose to be his right-hand man in Provo.
As Rose shared with us again during our postgame coverage the other night, he was at the time in a pretty solid position as head coach at Dixie State, and had be "talked into" joining Cleveland at BYU. He made the move without the benefit of a substantial previous relationship with Cleveland, and the rest is history.