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Provo • Even while dealing with cancer for the second time, BYU basketball coach Dave Rose was able to find a way to get an assist.
After surgery was performed on Sept. 9 at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in Salt Lake City to remove cancerous spots from Rose's liver, his players visited him a few days later, then ended up visiting the rooms of other patients to offer up encouragement and support.
"I got to spend some time with them, and so did other patients who are BYU fans," Rose said. "So it was a good day."
Not good was the news that came in late August after a routine, every-six-months scan. More than four years after Rose underwent emergency surgery to have a cancerous tumor the size of an orange removed from his pancreas, the scan revealed a cancerous tumor about the size of half a peanut, and other cancerous spots.
Rose was released from the hospital On Sept. 15, and spent a good chunk of the day on Wednesday giving one-on-one interviews about his latest battle with the insidious disease, and his basketball team's prospects for the upcoming season.
"The day I walked in to have surgery, that felt a little bit strange, because I felt great," Rose said. "I felt really healthy and strong. I am not back to that point yet. The incision was a bit more complicated this time, because of the areas they needed to get to. So I am still trying to heal from that.
"Trying to get your strength back from major surgery is tough," he continued. "I am in the third week right now, and I feel way better than I did last week at this time. But I still have a little ways to go, I think."
A new NCAA rule says basketball teams can start practicing 42 days before their first game, but still just 30 times. Because the Cougars open Nov. 8 against Weber State, they could start practicing on Friday, but won't get at it until Oct. 7.
That's not necessarily because of Rose's health, he said. The BYU coach traditionally starts practices the first Monday after the LDS Church's General Conference to allow players to attend missionary reunions and similar activities the previous weekend, and since that model has worked well in the past, he sees no reason to change.
Rose said he still believes he can work in 30 practices or exhibition games before the opener.
"I just worry about four, five practices in a row, three or four weeks earlier than normal, and how that is going to affect you in February and March," he said. "When you change your model, there's some nerves there, because you want to make sure to give the guys all the time they need to be ready to start the season, but you also want to make sure that you don't overwork and kind of burn them out."
That said, Rose expressed gratitude to his surgeon for working him into her schedule as quickly as possible so he will be able to give it "all that I have got" when practice rolls around.
Rose reiterated what he said after the first bout with cancer in June of 2009, that the ordeals have caused him to slow down a bit and remember what he is grateful for in his life.
"I am surrounded by a lot of really great people," he said.
As for his team this year, Rose said he believes it has the chance to contend with Gonzaga for the West Coast Conference championship, something that has eluded the Cougars their first two years in the league.
"I think we have a real unique combination of young, talented big guys," he said, referring to returnees Nate Austin and Josh Sharp and freshmen Eric Mika and Luke Worthington. "They have size and athletic ability. I think they have really good skill. And then we have really experienced guards."
Those include all-WCC performer Tyler Haws, veterans Matt Carlino and Anson Winder, returned missionary Kyle Collinsworth, juco transfer Skyler Halford and freshman Frank Bartley.
Rose's battle with cancer
• Diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on his pancreas in June of 2009.
• After tumor was removed, Rose's biannual scan in September of 2009 showed him to be cancer-free.
• A scan in August revealed cancerous spots on his liver, and he underwent surgery a week later to have the spots removed.
• Released from the Huntsman Cancer Hospital on Sept. 15, is preparing to begin practices Oct. 7.