My view of Mark Pope's tenure, trajectory, and where we are today. First, IMO,
it's important to talk about trajectory. Fans often look at a 2 or 3 year period, point to trajectory, and assume the current direction is intractable. In some cases, like with a Coach K at Duke in his peak years on the one hand, or a coach that has lost his team, on the other hand, the 2-3 year period is a good indicator of the long term future. In many cases, however, it is not. As with life, the trajectory of programs seldom maintains constant movement in one direction or the other. It's more like a series of waves. And you'd need more time to determine if the long term trajectory is generally going up or generally going down as the short term moves up and down along the way.
When Coach Pope arrived in Provo, he had a very good nucleus. And he recruited Yoeli to stay and Toolson to come back to BYU. There were, IIRC, something like 8 guys on that team in their last year of eligibility in the 2019-2020 season. And that team was awesome. We all had a pretty good idea that things didn't look great for the year or two after that.
Coach Pope recruited a nucleus with very good potential from among the best LDS players (Hall, Saunders and Toolson - and then Collin Chandler). We knew they were mission-first kids and we wouldn't really begin to see the fruits of that recruiting until next year at the earliest (unrealistic to expect much of recently returned RMs). Most of us expected a big drop in the 2020-21 season. Coach Pope swung for the fences and connected when he brought in Matt Harms in the transfer portal. That delayed the rebuild by a year.
Of course, the 2020-21 season wasn't as good as the year before, but we made the NCAA tournament.
Then, Coach Pope convinced Alex Barcello to stick around another year. Early season success, including crushing a wildly overrated Oregon team, got our hopes soaring way too high. Injuries to Harward (not really foreseeable) and Baxter (sort of foreseeable in hindsight, but still a big bummer), gutted our front court. Fous did great considering his experience and height. But we didn't have enough. A couple of guys from the portal didn't pan out (Seneca Knight never seemed to be a great fit and he never seemed to accept the role the coaches wanted for him, for example). And we dropped off.
We went for the fences again with the transfer portal and got a few pieces that might be really good long term. We got Rudi and he makes us better than we'd be without him. But they aren't enough to get us the NCAAs. We need more bigs. And we didn't get them. Our results should shock no one this year.
We're in for at least another year of rebuilding. Coach Pope has already shown he can coach a really good team. 2019-2020 was probably one of the best five teams in my memory for BYU (which goes back to Danny Ainge). My money is on being patient, trusting the process, and allowing the rebuild to happen. There's a decent chance we'll be REALLY good the year after next.
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Originally posted on Jan 24, 2023 at 4:25:34pm
Message modified by gwalker on Jan 24, 2023 at 4:29:10pm
Message modified by gwalker on Jan 24, 2023 at 4:51:23pm