Coach Pope hires trio of assistant coaches

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Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo
Mark Pope is captured smiling alongside his family during the press conference that announced him as the new head coach of the men’s basketball team. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope has found his assistant coaches.

Cody Fueger, Chris Burgess and Nick Robinson have been hired as assistant coaches for the BYU basketball team. Burgess and Fueger come to BYU from UVU where they were also assistant coaches to Mark Pope for the last four seasons. Robinson spent his last two campaigns at Seattle University, also as an assistant coach.

Though announcing the new assistants was the main topic on the press conference docket, the three new coaches made jokes about who would get to move into the only room with a window. Burgess won the shooting competition over Fueger while Robinson was running late due to his flights, so Burgess gets the office with a view.

“If I would’ve shot from the corner, it would’ve been a no-brainer — I would’ve won that thing easy. We shot right from where he shoots it all the time,” Fueger said. “Burgess got the window.”

While coaching the Wolverines, Burgess and Fueger saw their record improve from 12-18 during the 2015-16 season to 25-10 in the 2018-19 season — a 13-win improvement over four years. In addition, the Wolverines saw three straight postseasons appearances and back-to-back 20-win seasons with Burgess and Fueger behind the bench, UVU records in both categories.

Fueger, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has been credited with building successful recruiting classes for UVU. His success was headlined in 2018 when a number of players he’s helped develop, including Kenneth Ogbe (First-Team All-WAC), Jake Toolson (WAC All-Newcomer Team), Conner Toolson (Second Team All-WAC), Brandon Randolph (Second Team All-WAC) and Akolda Manyang (WAC All-Defensive team) were given postseason honors. Due to the development and success of these players, UVU was the only team in the WAC to feature five players with conference postseason accolades.

“We are relentless at making sure these guys are the best that they can be at the end of the day. In every facet, whether it’s off the court and on the court,” Fueger said. “That’s what we love doing. We love building relationships with these guys.”

Also headlining Fueger’s accomplishments are invites from the Utah Jazz to help with pre-draft workouts and free agent mini-camps. He is one of only three coaches from around the world who were brought in to help with the Jazz mini-camp in 2017. In addition, Fueger helped snap New Mexico State’s 39-game conference winning streak during the 2016-17 season when the Wolverine’s beat the Aggies 84-72. That would be New Mexico State’s only loss of the season at home.

In addition to UVU, Fueger also held positions with Utah (2002-07), Louisiana Tech (2007-11), UC Riverside (2011-12) and Utah State (2012-13). He was also the director of operations at BYU from 2013-15.

Burgess comes to BYU with plenty of professional experience as a basketball player. His 11-year professional career gave him the opportunity to play for several franchises in the NBA summer league and to have stints with teams in Australia, Egypt, the Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.

Before playing professionally, Burgess was the No. 1 recruit in the country. He played two NCAA seasons at Duke, reaching the Elite 8 in 1998 and the National Championship Game in 1999. Burgess finished his career at Utah where he helped the Utes to the NIT tournament in 2001 and NCAA tournament in 2002.

“I love (this) University. It’s an amazing university; it’s a winning program,” Burgess said. “I know how important this university is, to not just the state and the members of the church and things like that, but the last four years being around it and having played them, I know how important this university is, and that’s why I was drawn to it.”

Burgess primarily worked with the big men at UVU, two of which received All-WAC honors over the last two seasons. According to synergy sports, UVU big men were among the most efficient offensive players in the country during Burgess’ time in Orem.

Robinson comes to BYU with an impressive basketball resume: he has been head coach, assistant coach and director of operations. The most recent job title on his resume is that of assistant coach at Seattle University from 2017-2019. The Redhawks saw back-to-back winning seasons with Robinson assisting behind the bench, the first consecutive winning seasons for the program since the 1968-60 and 1969-70 seasons.

Prior to coaching at Seattle University, Robinson was the head coach at Southern Utah University from 2012-16. The players he coached received two All-Big Sky selections, 20 Big Sky Academic All-Conference honors, and five NABC Honors Court selections.

“The opportunity to be a young head coach awarded me a lot of life lessons as well as lessons in coaching,” Robinson said. “I’m looking forward to bringing some of those lessons to the table.”

In addition to his experience with Seattle University and Southern Utah University, Robinson gained experience with LSU (2009-12), William Jewell College (2008-09) and Stanford (2006-08).

In addition to his work experience in the basketball world, Robinson also played college ball from 2001-05 at Stanford. During his time there, the Cardinals boasted a record of 92-34  featuring four trips to the NCAA Tournament, and a Pac-10 regular season and tournament championship.

This trio of assistants looks to help newly-hired Mark Pope point BYU basketball back in the right direction. Coming off a season where the Cougars failed to reach a postseason tournament for the first time in well over a decade and lost star forward Yoeli Childs to the NBA draft, the newly hired coaching staff currently take control of a BYU basketball team that finds itself in a place it hasn’t been in recent memory.

“Like coach (Pope) talks about, ‘(let’s) do something people tell us we can’t do,'” Burgess said.

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