Kevin Young's first 50 days at BYU have been a whirlwind. With 2 openings, he may not be done

BYU's head men's basketball coach Kevin Young speaks to reporters after practice at BYU in Provo on Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

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PROVO — For the past decade as an NBA G League head coach and NBA assistant, culminating with the past three seasons as the Phoenix Suns' associate head coach, Kevin Young has maintained a bit of anonymity as he's built his career in basketball.

That was thrown out the window one night recently when he and a couple of assistants opted to grab dinner at a local In N Out after working in the Marriott Center Annex.

"You could sense some excitement in the community," Young said after running most of his players through a workout Thursday in the Marriott Center Annex. "It was pretty late ... and we were sitting at In N Out when some young man up came up, and said, are you Kevin Young? Then the table next to us started getting all excited, taking pictures of me with special sauce all over my face.

"It's unbelievable support for the program, and our coaches are sensing that quickly."

In less than two months since Young took over as head coach of BYU men's basketball for Mark Pope, who left for the same position at his alma mater Kentucky, the first-time collegiate head coach has been busy.

Between signing two four-star high school prospects in Elijah Crawford and Brody Kozlowski, grabbing two more four-star transfers from the portal in Utah's Keba Keita and Rutgers' Mawot Mag, and garnering a commitment from Real Madrid guard and projected NBA lottery pick Egor Demin, Young has also had to fill out his staff.

Young still has two scholarships available on the current roster, and he said he'd "like to" use both of them. But he's also open to keeping at least one spot available for future use, as has been fairly common across college basketball.

But he's not done recruiting, through the portal or otherwise. Earlier Thursday, CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein indicated that BYU (along with Memphis) was the latest program to express interest in Providence transfer Garwey Dual. Four-star wing Kanon Catchings, who played for assistant coach Tim Fanning with Cold Hearts in Overtime Elite, was also released from his letter of intent with Purdue.

"I think being able to have flexibility is good. There are certain guys who we have targeted at the moment who if we get, we would use them right now," Young said. "There are other situations where maybe later in the summer, you wish you had one. We're keeping our options open, but we definitely have specific targets at the moment that we're ready to pull the trigger on."

Then, of course, there's the players currently on his roster. Young has said since he took the job that his first priority was keeping the roster intact, and he did a good job of that in bringing Dallin Hall and Richie Saunders out of the portal, solidifying commitments early from Trevin Knell and Fousseyni Traore, and keeping notable rotation players like Dawson Baker and Trey Stewart from flirting with the portal.

The next step is installing his offense, which Young has describe as an NBA-style, five-out spread, and a defense that will likely rely heavily on former defensive specialist John Linehan and Will Voigt, the former Austin Spurs head coach who popularized the "peel and switch" defensive scheme.

"We're still learning the language, but just trying our best," Hall admitted. "He's (Young's) not too concerned about us getting it down right now. He wants us to just learn the style of play and the terminology will come with it. But it's cool, right? He's coming from the NBA, a place where a lot of us want to end up. To learn that now I think just gives us an advantage."

It may be a good thing Young's wife, Melissa, and the couple's three children are back in Arizona, where the kids are finishing school and a couple of summer commitments they made prior to the NBA's formerly highest-paid assistant coach returning to college basketball for the first time since 2006. He might not have much time to see much of them anyway, as noted by his In N Out anecdote.

BYU's head men's basketball coach Kevin Young speaks to reporters after practice at BYU in Provo on Thursday, June 6, 2024.
BYU's head men's basketball coach Kevin Young speaks to reporters after practice at BYU in Provo on Thursday, June 6, 2024. (Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

The first-time college head coach tapped resources near and far to fill out his staff, which includes recruiting specialists like former Stanford assistant Brandon Dunson and Utah's Chris Burgess, who returns to BYU after spending the past two seasons on Craig Smith's staff at his alma mater; two seasoned professional coach like Voigt, former head coach of the G League's Austin Spurs, and Tim Fanning, who spent the majority of his career overseas before returning stateside with Overtime Elite; and Linehan, the NCAA's former all-time steals leader at Providence who has coached some of the top defensive guards in the country.

Some of them reached out to him. Others he had to pry a little more to come to BYU.

"A couple of these guys I had on my radar if I had gone the NBA route," Young said. "I talked to a few of them over the years about that. But it was a mixture."

Not every player has arrived for preseason camps at BYU, but the bulk of the roster, from Hall to Saunders and Traore to Keita, will in the gym Thursday. The assistant coaches were there, too — some as recently as Sunday night in the case of Linehan, who arrived just in time as BYU hosted the top recruit in the class of 2025, Utah Prep's AJ Dybantsa, on an unofficial visit Monday.

"Excitement is the first word that jumps to my mind. We have a full offseason to figure things out," Hall said. "There's a little bit of uncertainty, just on how we all will fit together. We're still learning what coach Young likes and doesn't like. It's going to be a process, but I think we're bringing in a lot of amazing pieces, we have an incredible staff already, and we kept a good core. I think that's going to allow us to be successful down the road."


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