One Team All Green

Column: Which New Head Coach Has Done a Better Job This Offseason?

UVU Athletics

Goodness, it has been a minute since I last wrote anything for this site. Looking back, I believe the last article written was a preview article featuring New Mexico State’s opening round game of the NCAA Tournament against Auburn. Okay, that is inaccurate as I wrote a preview article regarding UVU wrestling heading to Nationals

Either way, it has been a minute since I have written anything. Life, kids, softball have all kind of dictated what has been going on over the past two and a half months. Add in changes at work that have impacted my income and it has been a bit of a struggle. 

The saddest part is that there has been quite a bit to write about. Perhaps the two biggest stories are that former UVU head coach Mark Pope decided to jump ship to take the job opening at BYU. And that UVU got a big name replacement in former Los Angeles Lakers assistant Mark Madsen. 

As part of the coaching changes, some UVU players decided to leave. The first to commit elsewhere was big man Baylee Steele who will play at Duquesne in 2019-20. That didn’t really anger some UVU fans. It was the announcement that WAC Player of the Year Jake Toolson, WAC Freshman of the Year Wyatt Lowell, and the Surprise of the Year Richard Harward all decided to follow Pope to BYU. 

The mass exodus was real. 2019-20 was set to be THE year for UVU. Size, athleticism, depth. The Wolverines had the making to potentially knock off reigning champ New Mexico State. 

But, the fairytale was not to be. 

That’s a story for another day.

This column is about which coach has had the better offseason. Ask BYU fans and they will say Pope has done an incredible job. Perhaps he has. 

Mark Pope

Let’s look at what he has done. 

Pope got Jake Toolson, Wyatt Lowell and Richard Harward to transfer to BYU. UVU commit Trey Roberts also flipped to the Cougars. However, BYU also got decommits from Bernardo Da Silva and Shengzhe Li. Silva is a 3-star forward out of Wasatch Academy in Utah and Li is a 6’10 center out of California. Both Da Silva and Li were set to fill voids left by Luke Worthington and Yoeli Childs. And both Da Silva and Li were eligible to play immediately.

Instead, Pope gets a player in Toolson who has one year of eligibility left. And two others who have to sit a year. And a player who will leave on a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Richard Harward is a big reason why UVU is still alive at #WACVegas. Photo by Mark Nessia.

Yes, Toolson was an AP Honorable Mention All-American after averaging 15.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. Toolson shot 44.8 percent from 3-point land, 85.1 percent from the charity stripe and 53.7 percent from the field. Wyatt Lowell earned WAC Freshman of the Year honors after averaging 5.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 0.5 steals per game, leading all WAC freshman. And Richard Harward came out of nowhere to basically save UVU’s season. Ask UVU fans and they will tell you the biggest loss is Harward. The Orem native was set to have a huge couple of years for the Wolverines. 

But on the flip side of that, had Connor MacDougall not gotten hurt in the WAC opener against GCU, Harward might never have seen the floor in 2018-19. Through the first 11 games of the 2018-19 season, Harward averaged 4.18 minutes per game. That was with a healthy duo of Baylee Steele and Connor MacDougall. But MacDougall’s finger injury opened the door for Harward. So that’s just something to think keep in mind as you read this.

Mark Madsen

Now let’s look at new UVU head coach Mark Madsen and what he has done in his first month and a half in Orem. It was a priority for Madsen to re-recruit the UVU roster. Overall, a pretty good job. Madsen talked junior forward Isaiah White off the transfer portal. And Madsen kept Pope’s prized recruit from 2018 in Oklahoma State transfer Brandon Averette. JUCO G/F Jacob Heese is honoring his commitment to Utah Valley despite the coaching change. 

Here are a few others who Madsen has received NLI’s from:

Jamison Overton – 6’6 guard – JUCO transfer

Fardaws Aimaq – 6’11 center – redshirt sophomore – transfer from Mercer who has to sit a year.

Brandon Morley – 7’0 center – grad transfer who only has one season of eligibility left.

Zach Mogbo – 6’7 forward – JUCO transfer who has two seasons of eligibility left. 

And another commit who hasn’t been officially announced yet is Lane Community College forward Cody Mathis. The 6’9 forward averaged 12.7 points and 8.8 rebounds for the Titans. 

What Madsen has done is recruit guys who are eligible immediately. Athleticism, quickness and high basketball IQ’s. Transfers have been the key to success over the past four years and will be the key to success in year one under Madsen. 

I will let you be the judge of who has had the better offseason in their new position. I’m a little bias so I would say Madsen. But let me make this very clear, what Mark Pope did in his time at UVU cannot be understated or taken for granted. UVU beat BYU for the first time ever. The Wolverines had back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in the Division I era. And Jake Toolson, Richard Harward and Wyatt Lowell were a part of that. And we wish them success at their new destination.

But Mark Madsen has the ability to recruit. Madsen has connections everywhere both nationally and internationally. And while UVU might not win the WAC in 2019-20, it won’t be as bad as it previously looked when a good portion of the returnees decided to depart. If there is one negative for UVU, it’s that the Wolverines weren’t able to secure another 6-10, 6-11 center to back up Morley. But, after talking with Madsen two weeks ago, he is going to use the athleticism, speed and quickness he has on his roster to his advantage. 

UVU athletic director Jared Sumsion got it right with the Mark Madsen hire. And for all the Wolverine fans who worry about continued success…don’t. 

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