BYU to hire Kevin Young as coach: Phoenix Suns assistant to lead Cougars after Mark Pope takes over Kentucky

Fittingly, a man named Young will lead Brigham Young University.

Phoenix Suns top assistant Kevin Young will be the next coach at BYU, sources told CBS Sports on Tuesday. The deal, which is official but not fully finalized, is for seven years and in the neighborhood of $30 million over the life of the contract, per a source.

Young will replace Mark Pope, who left late last week to take the Kentucky job after five seasons running BYU. The hire comes at a critical time for the program; the Cougars are entering Year 2 in the Big 12, which has consistently rated as the best conference in college basketball for the past decade.

The 42-year-old Young, who was a finalist for the Brooklyn Nets coaching vacancy, has a well-regarded NBA reputation and has been tracking toward being an NBA coach in recent years. There was speculation, even into Tuesday morning, over whether he’d pass on his NBA future to take over a college program. Young was BYU’s top choice despite having never played for or coached at the school. However, he is from Salt Lake City and has longstanding ties to BYU alum/Utah Jazz top basketball executive Danny Ainge. Even more critically, Young is longtime friends with billionaire BYU alum Ryan Smith, who was a power player in the hiring process.

Sources said both Smith and Ainge played a pivotal role in making the arrangement possible, with Smith contributing millions toward Young’s hire and BYU’s basketball infrastructure in the years to come.

In taking the job, Young — the highest-paid assistant in the pros — will get a sizable raise and will eventually leave his post with the Phoenix Suns. There is one caveat, however: He is staying on staff with Phoenix through the end of the team’s playoff run, sources told CBS Sports. The Suns are seeded sixth in the Western Conference will start their series vs. Minnesota, the 3-seed, on Saturday.

BYU went outside its standard hiring practices and procedures in the way it hired Young, according to sources. Whereas the university and its church leaders normally mandate at least three candidates be formally interviewed for a head coaching position, Young was the only candidate interviewed in this instance. The head men’s basketball coach, as with many other positions, must be of Mormon faith and actively practicing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which Young does. 

It also helped that Young was involved in BYU’s search process the last time, when Pope ultimately won the job in 2019. 

Young was previously a head coach in the G League (Utah Flash, Iowa Energy, Delaware 87ers) before rising higher in the NBA ranks over the past half-decade as an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Suns. Young spent one season coaching in college, in 2007-08, as an assistant at Utah Valley.

Young was taken by BYU’s courtship not just because of the hefty contract offer, but because “the NBA grind is real and cutting his season down was a factor,” according to one source. While college recruiting is a year-long grind in and of itself, BYU’s range of prospects is much more limited than most other high-major programs due to its LDS Church ties and honor code. Plus, Young has small children, and the opportunity to move away from the NBA lifestyle and spend less time on the road to be with his family was a swaying factor.

As for the transfer portal, three key BYU players have entered since Pope left for Kentucky: Dallin Hall, Aly Khalifa and Richie Saunders. With Pope now at Kentucky, it’s considered unlikely that all three would return to BYU. 

With Young remaining on Phoenix’s bench until the end of its season — whenever that is — he will be moving swiftly to hire a staff in the next few days in an effort to retain as much of BYU’s roster as possible and work the transfer portal. He’s also likely to bring on at least one assistant who his currently working in the NBA, a source said. 


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