Does everyone know what time it is? It's Tool-son time!
Andy Toolson, known to Cougar faithful as the BYU star of the late eighties, has joined Steve Cleveland's staff as an assistant coach. He turned in his sneakers for a whistle and a clipboard.
"Andy's extensive and diverse collegiate and professional experience will be a great foundation in his development as a Division I coach and recruiter. I have great respect for Andy's work ethic and passion for the game," crows Cleveland.
Toolson, 35, has never coached basketball. He has, however, played aside John Stockton and guarded Michael Jordan. Yep, pretty good credentials, and BYU is ready for COACH Andy Toolson! It's TOOLSON TIME!
When BYU plays Idaho this season, it will be a reunion of sorts for Toolson. A native of Twin Falls, Idaho, Andy is well known to basketball fans to our north. He was named a First-Team All-State player, both as a junior and a senior in high school. Indeed, he was chosen as the 1A 1984 Idaho Player of the Year. No stranger to top accolades, he was also named Gem State Conference MVP and a Converse All-American.
Andy cannot claim every honor in the state, however, when it comes to basketball games. His wife, the former Holly Hills, knows just where she can put him in his place.
"When he was a junior, and I was a sophomore, our teams played each other," recalls Holly. "I was a cheerleader for Meridian High, and he was on the other team, but we won!" (Leave it to a wife to serve up that piece of humble pie!)
Toolson grew up one of a family of four children to William and Elaine Toolson. When asked who has had the most important impact on his life, he quickly cites his parents and family.
"They have always been a great support through all the ups and downs." Older brother Tom played football at BYU in the 1970's, and cousin Michelle is married to former BYU great Danny Ainge, so Toolson's athletic blood ran blue from an early age. He recalls, "From the time I was little, I thought BYU was a pretty great place!"
In 1984 Toolson left the cold but familiar confines of Idaho for Provo, as one of Coach Ladell Andersen's prize recruits. He played one year for Coach Andersen before interrupting his career to serve a mission to Conception, Chile. In fact, he now joins a coaching staff who have all served Church missions, possibly a first at Brigham Young University.
Upon his return to the hardwoods in 1987, Toolson began to establish himself as one of the leading record holders in BYU's history. He still holds the records for (1) career 3-pointers made, at 141, (2) most 3's in a season, at 74, and (3) single-game free-throw percentage, at 14 for 14, a 1.000 percentage. He ranks only second in BYU basketball history for consecutive games with a 3-pointer, at 16; third in his career 3-point percentage, at .437; and eleventh in career points scored, at 1,388.
In 1988, Toolson and the Cougars advanced to the NCAA tournament, winning 17 consecutive games and achieving a No. 2 national ranking. Two years later, led by Toolson as the Western Athletic Conference's leading rebounder, the team won the 1990 WAC title and again advanced to the NCAA tournament.
"The memories of playing with guys whom I consider to be really outstanding people is what I look back on most fondly," said Toolson.
No stranger to books as well as basketball, Toolson was the fifth Cougar in history to be named an Academic All-American while averaging 18.3 points per game in 1990. That year he won All-WAC Second Team honors while earning a 3.31 GPA and being named a GTE Academic All-American. He shot 51 percent from the floor, including 49 percent on 3-point attempts, and was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District Team. Capping off the year academically, Toolson graduated with a bachelor's degree in international relations.
Not to leave another aspect of life at BYU behind, Toolson also met and married Holly while he was a player on the basketball team. In 1988 Holly's supervisor, Tom Gourley, who now works with the BYU Alumni Association, decided that she and Andy would be a good match, so he set them up on a date. Prior to her introduction to Andy, Holly had not exactly been a rabid BYU basketball fan.
"I think I went to the Varsity Preview when I was a freshman in 1985, but when we were set up, I really didn't know who he was, and he was a pretty popular guy then!" They married on the last day of finals in April, 1989.
Toolson sees his experience as a player at BYU as one of his strengths in his role as an assistant coach. With modesty also one of his strengths, Toolson's arguably a tough interview, especially when asked to elaborate on his own contributions! When pressed, however, he continues:
"I guess I see my major contribution as a guy with experience-someone who has played here at BYU, and also in a lot of different situations at the pro level. I know the thoughts and feelings that the players are experiencing. In my role right now, I really try to be positive, upbeat, and keep it fun. Sometimes in the daily grind it's too easy to forget that this is a FUN game-something that, as children, we all enjoyed a bunch."
And fun is something Coach Toolson hopes to retain as a coach. He describes his feelings on the occasion of his first game as a coach, rather than a player, in the Marriott Center as more intense than he would have expected, "I consider myself a pretty mellow person, but I found myself getting pretty into the game and even yelling at the referees-I don't want to get any technicals this year!"
The road from the Marriott Center and back for Andy Toolson has taken him to the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, halfway around the world, and backÂŠa couple of times! He and wife Holly have kept a home in Murray, Utah for the past few years just as a "base" of operations as they traveled to and fro in the world of pro basketball. Just recently they sold the home in preparation of moving into a new home now under construction in Alpine.
"Life in the pros was at first 'star-studded' ", says Holly, recalling Andy's rookie career with the Utah Jazz. He played the 1990-91 season with the Jazz, particularly remembering his very first appearance on the court as a pro. Sent in with three or four minutes left in the first half of a game at Chicago Stadium, the man Toolson was to guard was substituted with none other than His Airness himself, Michael Jordan!
"I was thinking to myself, 'Great, I'm just trying to make the roster of this team and now I have to guard the greatest player ever!' With about ten seconds to go in the half, [Jordan] faked and drove to the basket, I guessed right and they called a charging foul on him!! He also stepped on my foot and sprained his ankle on the play and was out the rest of the game. When I looked over at our bench, the coaches and players were all just cracking up-I guess they knew that I must have been nervous."
Toolson also recalls interesting moments as a pro on European teams, where he played between stints with the Jazz.
"I remember playing in Greece, with fans throwing stuff onto the court; and stopping play, having a bomb threat during the first half of a pre-season game in the Basque region of Spain; and winning the King's Cup Championship with a team from outside Barcelona."
Over his 11-year career in the pros, Toolson played in the NBA and the CBA, on teams in Italy, Greece, and Spain. In 1999 he won a 3-point contest in Athens, Greece, and he was named to the ULEB All-Star team.
"The lifestyle in Europe was less hectic, and more relaxed, and when we were back in the states, although we enjoyed our experience with the Jazz, we missed that less hectic lifestyle," recalls Holly. With a growing family, however, and after eleven years as world-travelers, the call from Coach Cleveland was a welcomed surprise.
"I received a call from Coach Cleveland on my cell phone as I was traveling on a bus to the arena for a game in Southern Spain," recalls Toolson. "My wife was the only one who usually called me on my cell phone, so I was obviously very surprised to hear his voice!" After congratulating Coach Cleveland on his season, Toolson was surprised to be offered an opportunity to join the Cougar staff.
"I said, 'Wow, you've caught me off guard here, but my initial reaction is, 'Yes, I'd be very interested. I talked it over with my wife, and I continued talking with Coach Cleveland for another few weeks, and I was happy when I had the offer. I see it as a great opportunity."
Besides his experience both collegiately and professionally, Toolson brings academic qualifications to his role as a coach and faculty member at BYU. In 1999 he earned a master's degree in social science from Syracuse University.
Reflecting on his professional experience, specifically with the Jazz, which he can share with recruits, Toolson states:
"I just enjoyed the whole experience. The Jazz is a very solid organization with outstanding people. Traveling around the nation and playing in beautiful arenas in front of large crowds was a lot of fun. I was also playing with guys that I knew were great players and true professionals, Stockton and Malone." Undoubtedly, Toolson's tales and experiences will provide that illusive perspective of "dreams that could come true" to aspiring young Cougars.
Off the court, Toolson enjoys reading, playing the piano, and just "hanging out" with his family. According to Holly, Andy most loves to wrestle and play with the kids, and bounce a ball through the house, much to her chagrin! Another favorite activity is renting a movie and eating popcorn.
"He really is a homebody," she reflects. Andy and Holly are parents to daughter Taryn, 10, and sons Dallin, 8; Conner, 6; and Trevor, 4. A fourth son is expected in January. (Since every child has been born during a basketball season, and Andy has managed to be there for the delivery, Holly is sure her husband will be at her side when the time is here, despite any pending game!)
Adding to his long list of honors and tributes, Toolson was recently inducted into the Cougar Club's Hall of Fame with the introduction, "One would be hard-pressed to find a person who better represents basketball, the university, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than Andy Toolson." Yes, Cougar fans, once again, it's Tool-son Time!
Cougars Who Played Pro Ball in Europe
Andy Toolson is one of many former Cougar cagers to play basketball in Europe.
The NBA is more publicized and is the dream of many collegiate players. However, several collegians have continued playing on the professional level in Europe.
The latest to play in Europe is Shawn Bradley, the 7-6 center who left BYU after one season. Bradley currently plays for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA. Because he was born in Germany when his father was in the military, the product of Castle Valley, Utah has qualified to play for the German Olympic team alongside his 7-0 Maverick teammate Dirk Nowitzki, who hales from Germany. Bradley and Nowitzki led Germany to a fourth-place finish in the European Championships last September in Turkey.
Scott Runia, who had dual citizenship because of his Dutch-born parents, played two seasons in Holland (1980-82) and made the five-man All-Dutch team along with two former NBA players and two former players from the University of North Carolina.
Devin Durrant played several seasons in Spain and has seen the quota of foreigners on each team range from one to two to no limit for squads in Europe.
"It was a different experience for me because I went back to a place where I was previously as a missionary," said Durrant. "I was comfortable with the language. It was a smooth transition and a wonderful time for me as a young husband and father. It's fun to play there because it's amazing how loud 3-6,000 fans in the stands can be." That point is seconded by the Gneitings who lived there for eight seasons.
"The key is what it offers financially for American players to get started with cash in a bank account," said Durrant. "It gives you a nice head start. Every year it becomes more difficult to go over there as your family grows."
The Cougars have had several foreign-born players who have played for teams in their own country, highlighted by the late Kresimir Cosic, who helped Yugoslavia to the Olympic gold medal in 1980 as a player and also coached in Greece.
Player Years with BYU Played in Country
Jeff Chatman 1985-88 Spain
Devin Durrant 1979-84 Spain
Tom Gneiting 1985-87 Spain & Turkey
Marty Haws 1987-90 Belgium
Russell Larson 1992-95 Spain
Fred Roberts 1979-82 Italy & Spain
Kenneth Roberts 1991-96 Spain & Portugal
Bryon Ruffner 1995-96 Belgium & Sweden
Scott Runia 1977-80 Holland
Michael Smith 1984-89 Spain
Alan Taylor 1977-80 Italy & Germany
Andy Toolson 1984-90 Italy, Greece & Spain
Gary Trost 1988-93 Portugal
Steve Trumbo 1979-82 Spain
Jim Usevitch 1983-88 Israel & Greece