BYU Back on Top: But Not without Struggle

Will MossContributor IJune 25, 2009

It seemed like a normal Australian day. Chris Collinsworth and David Ferguson were on there way home from church work as they spotted a large clock on the wall—8:30.


They continued walking through southwest Sydney looking around through the dark at the decay just thinking about all the violence and poverty and how they would give anything to make things better.


Collinsworth and Ferguson had little idea they were about to get in a fight for their lives.

Three men jumped them, one armed with a knife. Collinsworth and Ferguson managed to fight the two unarmed assailants off long enough for a passing-by car to scare off their attackers. But not before both men were stabbed multiple times.


But that has been forgotten by now. Ferguson stayed in Australia to finish his missionary work, and Collinsworth returned back to the BYU campus due to his injuries. David came back safe a few months later after finishing his work.


That was enough tragedy for such a saintly school.  


An attack on a coach’s player seems like a once-in-a-lifetime moment. But more than a year later, coach Dave Rose’s life turned upside down once again.


Doctors told him that he had pancreatic cancer.


When Dave Rose took over the Cougars' basketball team in 2005, he was one of 40 coaching changes that off-season. His hiring was lost behind bigger programs' (Virginia, Tennessee, and Purdue) coaching changes


Out of those 40 new coaches, he has had the best winning percentage (.740) and the second-most wins (97).


He has put together the most talented BYU teams since the 1979 and 1980 teams led by Danny Ainge, the all-time Cougar leader in points. 


He strives for perfection but does not have the same questionable recruiting methods that other big programs have. He does not let the pressure of winning change his morals.


He also led BYU to their first back-to-back Top 25 seasons since 1980-1982.


He does this without ESPNU Top 100 players and with guys doing missionary work in some of the poorest places around the world without complaining. This is an opposition to guys who complain because they can't just skip college and go to the NBA.


And he was not going to let cancer end his career this early.


Doctors removed his spleen and now tests show there are no signs of cancer left.


"I believe that I'm a lucky guy. I believe I've been met with a challenge, but it's a challenge that is manageable," Rose said. "It's a challenge that I can handle and continue to do what I love to do."


Rose has been praised for his kindness and charity work. When it was announced he had cancer, every coach in the conference phoned in with words of encouragement. Fans from rival schools sent letters to him telling him that they are praying for him.


"We were kind of sweating a little bit to know what it was," guard Jimmer Fredette said. "He's going to have us running and gunning just like always. We're expecting full-fledged coach."


Now we can get back to the fun. Rose is a big fan of the old "Show Time" Lakers, modeling his team after that ‘85 team. He loves to push the tempo and has one of the most conditioned teams in America.


Even though they are losing their leading scorer, Lee Cummard, they return all their other starters, and Jimmer Fredette looks ready to take over next season.


Fredette was one of the most sought-after recruits coming out of New York. He turned down bigger schools like West Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Penn State so he could be with Coach Rose.


He only averaged 0.6 less points than Cummard (16.8 to 16.2) and did that as a sophomore.


So, do not be surprised when Fredette wins Conference Player of the Year. Nor should you be in shock when point guard Lamont Morgan leads the most potent offense in the Mountain West as the Cougars sprint into the Tournament.


And when you watch Dave Rose celebrating with the rest of the team, as they march deep into the Tournament, just remember one thing.


Rose and his players will be doing all of this with the fear of the return of his cancer over their heads. Every couple months, he will undergo scans to “just mak[e] sure."


But will their coach quit?


"I promise you this," Rose said. "I will appreciate every day. I will appreciate every practice. I'll appreciate every game more than I have because I think that's what you do when you go through this."


Let's just hope he does all this appreciating cancer-free.