Like you, I’m a BYU sports maniac. I enjoy following the Cougars along the trail to fame and glory. Each twist and turn is interesting and fascinating. This has certainly been the case with the 2016 BYU football team.
While I have a lot of interest in the ongoing developments and treasured histories of all the sports in BYU athletics, my personal favorite is BYU men’s basketball.
I love BYU hoops. I love BYU basketball so much that I am frequently reading old BYU basketball media guides. I’ve spent hours assembling a criteria for determining the all-time greats of BYU basketball, which is accompanied by a spreadsheet that details the reasoning and numbers that account for where players are ranked. I’ve even visited Special Collections in the bottom floor of the BYU library to inquire about watching old game footage of Dick Nemelka and John Fairchild. This is how I choose to spend my free time.
So, it comes as no surprise that I’m delighted with the fact that the cavalcade of highly-touted recruits are finally all here. But even when that isn’t the case, I’m always excited for the start of the basketball season.
This year, I’m finding myself more anxious for basketball to start than ever before. Surprisingly, it isn’t due to the cavalcade of highly-touted recruits finally all being here at the same time. Even though that is exciting, something else has me yearning for the return of hoops.
Allow me to explain with an allegorical analogy.
Imagine for a moment this fictional scenario.
After the last exhibition game against BYU-Hawaii, Dave Rose and his staff make the decision that Kyle Davis gives BYU the best chance to win if he starts at center over Eric Mika.
Yes, the difference between Mika and Davis is close, but Davis has experience as he is a senior. Davis also emboldened Dave Rose and his coaching staff to make this decision as he has shown a better grasp of the desired schemes. Beyond that, Kyle Davis has been loyal to BYU when he wasn’t loyal to his previous institutions and should be rewarded and lauded for that.
And rather than leaving it at that — as a simple announcement — Dave Rose magnanimously continues to concretely explain his reasoning in this decision, desiring to give the fan base an explanation as to why he is choosing to underutilize a top rated recruit in Mika after he proved his abilities during a successful and promising freshman season.
Dave Rose cites the data indicating that Davis is the more efficient scorer than Mika. That Davis is best equipped to help the team overall from the 5 position. That Davis is the slightly better rebounder. That Davis blocks more shots. That Davis defends the post more effectively. That Davis avoids foul trouble better — thus allowing Rose to trust that his game plan won’t go haywire after two quick early whistles.
Yes, Mika has way more upside. In addition, Mika is more difficult for opponents to game plan against because of his better physical gifts.
Despite this, the coaching staff have made the determination that BYU will win more games this year with Kyle Davis getting the lion’s share of minutes at the center position with Mika playing when the Y has a comfortable lead.
If this situation were to occur, do you suppose that many, many BYU fans would say that they trust the coaches, and that the coaches know what’s best?
Would it be claimed that only the coaches can have insights on BYU because they are the only ones privy to the ongoing activities at practice?
Would people argue that Eric Mika and his fans should be gracious to Kyle Davis — as Mika will learn more from the bench than he would by playing? Would fans preach patience as Mika will “get his turn next year?”
Would people argue that Davis deserves to play center over Mika because he once had a double-double that was key in defeating a ranked Gonzaga team on the road? Would there be mention of the three times he flirted with a 20-20 game (a feat accomplished only by 7 men in BYU hoops history)?
When this coaching personnel decision in turn led to the worst statistical senior season from a starting center in 40 years with a total stymieing of the ability to score in the paint, would people blame all of his teammates, except Nick Emery, for Davis’ poor play?
If BYU were 15-12 with 6 games left, would these same people continue to trust Dave Rose, stand by Kyle Davis and, while admitting that Davis’ play hasn’t been what it was hoped to be, claim that they are excited to see him finish out his career in the “right way?”
Would people say that Davis deserves to be the one that helps BYU get CBI tournament eligible?
Would any of those reactions be the resulting responses to my made-up fantasy?
Of course not. None of those things would happen. Absolutely none of them.
This is why I’m particularly excited for BYU basketball to get in full swing. In addition to thrilling action happening on the hardwood, the return of BYU basketball also represents the recovery of normalcy in Cougar Nation.
The above scenario would never happen during a BYU basketball season. At least not with Dave Rose at the helm. Cougar hoops is a place where reason and reality prevails. A transformation will occur and coaches and (all) players will be fallible again.
Decisions made by coaches will be rational with a corresponding clear rationale and these decisions will be subject to review. The use of data and statistics is will once again be considered, valued and respected. If something on the team is failing, Coach Rose will address it and make a course correction. After all, sometimes (he, they, me) we get it wrong. And that’s okay.
Even in times of great success, Coach Rose still carries dissatisfaction — seeking for even greater refinement.
Meanwhile, on the gridiron, great effort has been made in the way of myth-making. All summer, stories were told of larger than life figures akin to the altruistic superheroes found in silver screen blockbusters.
- A childhood fan turned player turned head coach who has been brought in to restore and surpass the glory of his childhood hero turned mentor turned peer.
- A Heisman trophy winning legend with the greatest mind in football reclaiming his place in control of the offense.
- The third return of a “Thor-terback” who while destructible of body is incorruptible of spirit.
The problem is, nobody wants to see a movie where the good guy wins 5 out of 9 fights against his foe with the theme being that he at least had a chance to win in all of the conflicts.
Instead, if there are losses, the satisfaction is the solving of flaws. Weaknesses made into strengths. It is the improvement that gets spectators cheering. Think about it, how terrible would a Rocky movie be without the training montage?
The pursuit of greatness, not the living up to it, is the satisfying part of sports.
The irony is that in being willing to embrace error by adjusting and making alterations, the end result turns out being better than the initial configuration.
This has always been Dave Rose’s approach with his program. I hadn’t fully appreciated this about BYU basketball, but I sure do now after this fall’s “Not His Fault” movement.
While I’m pumped up about the long awaited gathering of talented hoops prospects, I’m elated about the much needed reality check that BYU basketball will bring back to the fan experience.