Coaching: No greater call

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Over the last three decades there have been many coaches who have spent time in various positions at BYU and other universities and have gone on to find success coaching in college ranks and in the professional leagues. This prompts the questions, “Where are they now, and what are they doing?” Even though they have spent time coaching for different teams, sometimes against each other as rivals, there is one important thing that unites many of these coaches: their religious faith.

The most common years in which these coaches either worked, played or simply attended BYU was between 1978 and 1982. During this time span, Andy Reid and Robert Anae played on the offensive line, and Kyle Whittingham played as a linebacker on defense. Additionally, Norm Chow was the offensive coordinator for the Cougars and Gary Crowton was a graduate assistant. As an added note, this was also the time in which Danny Ainge led the Cougars’ basketball team to its first Sweet 16 appearance.

All these former Cougars are now coaching either in the college or professional ranks. Reid has been the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach since 1999 and has led the Eagles to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl appearance.

Whittingham has been the head coach of BYU rival the University of Utah since 2005, the same year current BYU head coach and fellow Latter-day Saint Bronco Mendenhall took over the Cougars team from Gary Crowton, who coached the Cougars between legendary coach LaVell Edwards’ retirement and the Mendenhall era. Crowton is still coaching, having spent time as the offensive coordinator for LSU during their national championship season in 2007, and is currently the offensive coordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League.

Chow was recently named the head coach for the University of Hawaii’s football team at the beginning of the 2012 season after spending time as the offensive coordinator for several high-profile teams such as USC, UCLA, Utah and the Tennessee Titans of the NFL. Chow also was offensive coordinator for BYU when the Cougars won their national championship in 1984, while Anae was playing offensive guard. Anae was the offensive coordinator for BYU from 2005 to 2011, at which point he took the same position at the University of Arizona. Former Cougar quarterback Brandon Doman replaced Anae as offensive coordinator and is another LDS coach of note. In addition, Ainge himself spent time coaching in the NBA for the Phoenix Suns from 1996 to 1999. He is currently the President of Basketball Operations for his former team, the Boston Celtics.

Other LDS coaches throughout the coaching world are Mike Leach, who attended BYU from 1980 to 1983 but did not play or coach football for the Cougars. However, it has been noted that Leach’s inspiration as a coach was from watching the Edwards-led Cougars at the time. Leach found great success as head coach of Texas Tech University, helping his offense set several NCAA records. Leach is currently the head coach of the Washington State Cougars.

Gary Andersen, who currently coaches at Utah State, never spent time in Provo but played as a center at the former Ricks College, now known as BYU-Idaho. Andersen was the defensive coordinator for the Utes during their 2008 season, which culminated with the impressive Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.

Another LDS football coach who never spent time at BYU is Ken Niumatalolo, who is currently the head coach at the Naval Academy. Niumatalolo was the quarterback for the Hawaii Warriors while Anae coached as a graduate assistant there.

There are a few former BYU coaches and players who are not LDS who have also gone on to find success in coaching throughout the country. These include current University of Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian, who played quarterback for BYU from 1995 to 1996; Brian Billick, who won Super Bowl XXXV as coach of the Baltimore Ravens and played tight end for the Cougars; and Mike Holmgren, who until recently was the President of the Cleveland Browns and who also coached the quarterbacks at BYU from 1982 to 1985. Holmgren helped groom future NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young and Robbie Bosco, who led the Cougars to their national championship in ’84.

There are far fewer LDS coaches in the basketball world, Ainge being¬†arguably¬†the most successful to date. In addition to current BYU Head Coach Dave Rose, two other coaches of note are Utah State’s Stew Morrill and UNLV’s Dave Rice. Morrill played college basketball at Gonzaga and has held the Aggies’ position since 1998, and Rice spent six years as an assistant coach for BYU under Rose.

Whether they are LDS or BYU-affiliated (or both), these coaches have woven their ways through college and professional ranks, some finding enormous success, while others are still in the process of making their marks on the coaching world.

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