New BYU basketball coach Kevin Young focused on building NBA pipeline with Cougars | Sports

PROVO, Utah (AP) — Kevin Young wants to turn BYU into a breeding ground for NBA talent.

Young, who was introduced as the Cougars’ new head basketball coach on Wednesday night, said he plans to use his NBA experience and player development skills to turn Provo into an NBA pipeline for the players while building a consistently successful program in the Big 12.

It’s a major selling point Young used when he first met with his current roster that’s already seen three major contributors — Dallin Hall, Aly Khalifa and Richie Saunders — enter the transfer portal since Mark Pope left to coach Kentucky.

“These guys are all hungry to get better,” Young said. “That’s been obvious since I talked to them. They’re just dying to get better and dying to have a little specificity on what that looks like for each one of them.”

BYU has a coach who has the experience to back up the NBA development talk. He spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers before joining the Suns in 2020. After one season on the Phoenix coaching staff, Young was promoted to associate head coach in 2021.

Joining BYU qualified as an unexpected move. Young had no direct ties to the program before being hired to replace Pope. He never played for or coached the Cougars before this season.

Young admitted he’s taken on a unique challenge, but it’s also one he’s embracing with complete enthusiasm.

“What I’ve been doing, I’ve been doing for a long time,” Young said. “To shift gears and have to learn a whole new system has really got me charged up.”

Young appeared to be on a much different basketball trajectory before joining BYU.

He has interviewed for head coaching jobs with the Suns, the 76ers, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets and Brooklyn Nets in recent seasons. Shedding the assistant coach label seemed inevitable.

Seeing Young do it at BYU instead of with an NBA team came as a surprise. But the Cougars made Young their top target from the start after Pope’s departure.

“Kevin is not someone that just came to us out of the blue,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said. “We had our eye on him for quite a while. It’s been remarkable to see all that he has accomplished at the NBA level.”

Young will continue to coach with the Suns during the NBA Playoffs before joining BYU in a full-time capacity. For now, he will split his time between Phoenix and Provo. His immediate priorities with the Cougars are retaining current BYU players, contacting recruits and assembling a coaching staff.

He plans to implement a fast-paced wide-open offense similar to what helped the Cougars finish fifth in the Big 12 in their debut season and earn a six seed in the NCAA Tournament. Getting a chance to build up a program in the Big 12 was an opportunity Young didn’t want to pass up.

“That had a huge part of drawing me, pulling me out of the situation I was in,” Young said. “It’s big time. It’s the most competitive and best league in college basketball.”

This is Young’s first head coaching job at the NCAA Division I level. Still, it isn’t his first time heading up a basketball team.

The Salt Lake City native spent eight seasons coaching in the NBA G-League, with head coaching stints at the Utah Flash, Iowa Energy and Delaware 87ers.

“I know my voice,” Young said. “I don’t have to find it.”

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