New BYU coach understands his role

New BYU head basketball coach Steve Cleveland was impressed when he heard the school's president, Merrill J. Bateman, state recently, "If you know who you are, others can't define you."

Upon entering Coach Cleveland's office in the Marriott Center on the BYU campus, it is apparent he knows who he is. Not surprisingly, the room was decorated with basketball posters, trophies and other memorabilia. But most apparent on his desk were copies of the Book of Mormon and President Gordon B. Hinckley's biography. Many of the volumes in his bookcase were Church books. Hanging on the wall behind his desk is a framed picture of Jesus Christ.In keeping with the appearance of his office, he exhibited an intense interest in basketball and in the Church, as well as in his family, during a recent interview. He knows who he is.

He is a faithful member of the Church, born into a good family. He was baptized at 8 years old. He interrupted his college basketball career to serve a mission in England, "to that point in my life, obviously the greatest thing I ever did."

He met Kip Perry while attending college in Fresno and their long-distance relationship blossomed after he moved on to play basketball at the University of California-Irvine. They were married his senior year and he was soon serving as an elders quorum president. Since then he has served in various callings including bishop's counselor and stake high councilor. He said the position he has enjoyed most is gospel doctrine teacher in Sunday School because it drew him into a deeper study of the gospel.

Coach Cleveland has heard that he is the first returned missionary to serve as head basketball coach at BYU. He brought one assistant coach - Heath Schroyer - with him from his staff at Fresno City College where he was head coach before landing the BYU job. While Schroyer is not a member of the Church, "he represents all the values of BYU," according to Coach Cleveland. He notes that his other three assistants - Dave Rose, Nathan Call and Brian Santiago - all served missions.

"It really gives us a better feel for these young men we're coaching because we actually went on missions and came back to play college basketball and remember it well," he said. Many BYU players interrupt their schooling to serve missions.

As he embarks on his first opportunity to coach at the highest collegiate level, Coach Cleveland said it is important for people to know that "I am a member of the Church and I love my membership. When my basketball program is successful, if it benefits the Church, that's great. But it's just a game."

As a basketball coach, he will try to restore the BYU program to the proud tradition of the past after last season's devastating 1-25 record.

"We want to recruit the very best student athletes in the world who share the values of BYU," he said.

Coach Cleveland doesn't think anyone is obligated to attend BYU, ("I didn't go to BYU and I had a great college experience," he said) but he believes BYU provides for any college student a great environment socially, spiritually, academically and athletically.

"It's not easy right now," he said of his position. "It's the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life. I'm speaking three times a week. I'm trying to run a basketball team. We're trying to change the perception of the program while every other school that is recruiting against us wants everybody to think that we're done."

But he knows that through shared commitment by the coaches, the players, the students, the administration and the fans, the program can recover quickly.

He confidently stated, "My goal is that this program recaptures the tradition of the past, recaptures the magic that can be found in the Marriott Center."

For now, he radiates confidence that he knows who he is.

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