BYU makes bold statement in hiring NBA’s top assistant coach

Phoenix Suns assistant coach Kevin Young, right, argues with a referee during game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Phoenix. On Tuesday, April 16, 2024, BYU announced it has hired Young as its new head coach.
Phoenix Suns assistant coach Kevin Young, right, argues with a referee during game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Phoenix. On Tuesday, April 16, 2024, BYU announced it has hired Young as its new head coach. | Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

When BYU hired Phoenix Suns associate head coach Kevin Young to lead BYU basketball, the news echoed across the country, including national media sources — it was that unique. From Yahoo Sports to The Athletic and ESPN, it was heralded as huge news. The story broke from ESPN’s senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, who has 6.3 million followers on X.

Here are a few of our stories in the Deseret News on the Young hire:

Keep checking Deseret News for updates and commentary from Young’s press conference and one-on-one interviews scheduled on campus Wednesday.

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: What is your take on BYU hiring Kevin Young to replace Mark Pope?

Jay Drew: I’m feeling slightly embarrassed today, because after Mark Pope bolted for Kentucky, I wrote the usual article about possible replacements and did not include Kevin Young.

Simply put, I thought Young, and another NBA assistant who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Alex Jensen), were out of BYU’s financial reach. Clearly, I underestimated the power of Danny Ainge and Ryan Smith.

While I would still like to see top candidates Chris Burgess and, perhaps, Barret Peery join the program in some capacity, I’ve got to say this is a home-run hire for the Cougars. The other big surprise was the speed in which all this went down.

Clearly, it is a new era in BYU athletics — paying coaches market value, and moving with nimbleness in hiring coaches. Now if Smith and Ainge can get Collin Chandler to change his mind, they would be considered miracle workers in Provo.

Dick Harmon: The hire of Young is definitely an attention-getting move by BYU and has been recognized within the Big 12 as a significant get, since Baylor’s coach turned down the Kentucky job — it buoys up the league and certainly the Cougar program.

Young has his work cut out for him this coming season and it won’t be easy, but his talent in developing players will weigh heavily on incoming recruiting pitches and his knowledge of basketball offense is at the highest level. He was in the running for NBA head coaching jobs with the Bucks, Raptors, Rockets, Suns, 76ers, Jazz, Wizards, Hornets and turned down a more lucrative offer from the Brooklyn Nets to take the BYU job.

In 45 years of covering BYU sports, I’ve never seen this kind of move by BYU administrators to get this quality of a coach from the highest level of a sport and do it in record time, essentially four days. To me, this means that Tom Holmoe and Brian Santiago and university president C. Shane Reese were all on the same page and even contemplating ahead of time where they would go and who they would look at if Mark Pope left. To line up financials, get interviews done by church general authorities — it was done in record time. Big 12 money will help with this hire, but there are other investors who had to step up and make it happen. A bold move, indeed.

Cougar tales

The Pope departure became the biggest news of post-spring football by a mile until the Young hire overshadowed it. Here are some of our stories on the fallout.

From the archives

From the X-verse

Extra points


Comments from Deseret News readers:

It’s sad for fans when the coach leaves ... it’s even sadder when he implodes the team on the way out. He can say he didn’t see this coming ... but he should have. He saw what happened when he left UVU (and key players on the team came with him).

The good thing is, this is the NCAA ... which means you have a whole new team every four years anyway. So none of the players on the current team would be here in three years anyway. And we would have had to recruit a whole new team in the next four years regardless of this happening. Just have to find ANOTHER Collin Chandler ... and about 10 other Collin Chandlers.

Not easy to do ... but have to hope the NEW coach is up to that challenge. Recruiting is the No. 1 job when you have to replace your whole team with new players every four years. Get a coach who can recruit. The assistant coaches can take care of practices and games.

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