"It's pretty pink," said Coach Rose with a laugh, in this case not using the word 'pretty' to mean beautiful, but rather to mean very. "I think it's the same shoe that will be worn by three other teams that are involved in [Coaches vs. Cancer], but I think the fans will be able to tell that the shoes are a little bit different."
"They feel really good," said freshman Tyler Haws with a laugh. "It's cool that we are supporting the cancer stuff, so it will be fun to bring these out Saturday."
In addition to wearing the new pink shoes against Utah on Saturday, the Cougars will also wear white jerseys with blue and pink trim. This will all be to show support for the fight against cancer. The Cougars were practicing in their new pink shoes on Thursday to get a feel for the new brand and to wear them in a little prior to their contest against the Utes.
"I think that's why they gave them to us a few practices early, so we could get them broken in," Haws said. "They give us a little flash and a little style. I like them."
"I feel lighter and faster," said Chris Miles with a laugh. "I've got happy feet now I guess."
Haws jokingly mentioned that he may try and make the new shoes a part of his regular fashion.
"I just might stick with them," he said while looking down at the new shoes. "We'll see."
As the team wears modified uniforms during the Utah game, the coaches will wear sneakers also in honor of Coaches vs. Cancer. But while this is the first time the Cougars will sport a pink look to their uniforms, Coach Rose and his staff have worn sneakers to raise cancer awareness for years now.
Of course, that was before Coach Rose became a cancer patient himself. As Rose fielded questions on Thursday, one reporter brought up how this year's Coaches vs. Cancer event would surely feel different for him given his recent cancer scare.
"Well, they all have a different feel because when you stand up you're in tennis shoes," joked Coach Rose. "I can remember the first couple of times I did it, I was running up and down the sideline going a little quicker in my tennis shoes. I do believe that we're fortunate and think it's good for our school and good for our team. I think it just brings more awareness to a great cause."
It's likely that the team's pink shoes won't make an appearance the rest of the season, though the players haven't been informed as to what will happen with the shoes following Saturday's game or if they'll get to wear them again.
"I don't know, and they haven't told us if we will be able to keep them or not," Haws said. "I'm not sure."
In fact, the players had no idea that they would be wearing the shoes or modified uniforms until this week. Regardless, this event holds special meaning for the team.
"Obviously our coach has been through cancer and it kind of means something to our team to be doing this," said Haws. "We're grateful to have Coach Rose in the kind of health he's in right now, so it's a cool thing."
As mentioned, the Cougars have participated in past Coaches vs. Cancer games promoted by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). But with Rose having overcome cancer in the offseason, the team sporting new uniforms this Saturday, and this being a rivalry game against Utah, the game has extra meaning and emotion tied into it.
"That's kind of a coincidence that this weekend is the NABC-sponsored weekend, and then the schedule comes out and you're playing your rival," said Coach Rose. "I believe that once the ball is thrown up, the game becomes the main factor and hopefully that's what we can focus on."
The cancer that afflicted Rose has obviously had a profound effect on his players.
"Our team kind of came together before the season when we found out that he had cancer, and it was kind of a bonding experience," said Haws. "We all wanted to work as hard as we could for Coach Rose and represent him in that way."
"This summer when we were first called in and made aware of the situation, we didn't know all the details yet because it's a specific kind of cancer Coach Rose had," said Miles. "The main focus of the staff and the athletic director was to bind ourselves together to move forward.
"We needed to come together, pray, and no matter whatever happened at the end of the day, we move forward and fight for a good cause. Coach Rose has put so much into building this program and moving it forward to where it needs to go. We have so many goals and things we want to accomplish, and ever since we had that meeting that day where we found out about our head coach, it's stuck with us throughout the process."
Rose's cancer situation put the Cougars through a unique situation that most players don't experience. It was something that only helped bond the players in a way that one could argue has helped the team surpass all expectations.
"We wanted to rally around Coach Rose, and that's exactly what we've done," said Miles. "Coach Rose's heart is mixed into this whole basketball thing a little more than most coaches because he's always cared about all of our lives. He's always cared about us getting an education and having success and avoiding things in life that detour you from happiness. I think that the way he feels about each of his players and his family has only magnified his heart and focus towards us."
So for these Cougars, putting on pink shoes and uniforms and strutting their stuff up and down the court is not an issue in the least bit. The close bond and strong focus of this Cougar team, having rallied around their head coach, is evident. If it means wearing pink to show in some small symbolic way the reciprocation of love, support and respect towards their head coach, well, that's fine with them.
"Having said all that we've said, I guess it equates having us wearing pink shoes in the end," said Miles with a smile. "For us it really is kind of special, and in the past the coaches have always worn their Coaches vs. Cancer shoes for the games. It's nice for us to be able to show some support and to say we care by wearing something, even if it's pink tennis shoes."