Dave Rose doesn't exactly look like a rock star. No tattoos. No tongue studs. Not even a hint of a bandanna. He's probably never even set fire to a guitar on-stage.

Instead, he has trim hair, a clean-shaved face and a super-looking suit — if you're going to church.

And don't forget the sensible black shoes.

OK, maybe he's not a rock star, but this much seems obvious: After three seasons as BYU's basketball coach, he may as well be. How popular is he?

Let's just say he doesn't often have to pick up the check at lunch.

As someone's sign said in the Marriott Center, Wednesday night, "Oh, Baby!"

Baby, indeed. What next, his own late night talk show? A "Rose for Men" line of cologne?

By now even the national media are starting to take note. The Cougars are ranked in one of two major polls and top vote-getter among unranked teams in the other. They wrapped up a second straight regular season title with a 78-61 rout of Wyoming, finishing off the Cowboys early in the second half by stretching an 11-point lead to 26. That was it. Over and out. They took what was a guaranteed tie for the conference title and turned it into an outright championship.

Three years, two titles for Rose. BYU is headed toward its second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2003 and 2004. Last time the Cougars had a back-to-back title run was in 1992 and 1993. Asked if the distractions are increasing as his success continues, Rose replied, "It's exactly the way I want it."

Rose's record as BYU's coach now includes one second place and two first place finishes. It took Rose all of, what, a week to find his groove? He is also likely to win his third consecutive conference Coach of the Year award. No other BYU coach has won two straight.

As well as Rose has done — his .741 win percentage is highest of any BYU coach in history — truth is, he didn't start entirely from scratch. Though the Cougars went a dismal 9-21 in Steve Cleveland's last year, Rose actually inherited a respectable group in 2005 that included Rashaun Broadus, Austin Ainge, Keena Young and Trent Plaisted.

They provided the game, Rose provided the attitude.

Cleveland, it should be noted, was no slouch. He took a 1-25 team and won two regular season championships in eight years, leading the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament three times. But in the eyes of some, his big drawback was he was too low key. (Of course, so was John Wooden, so draw your own conclusions.)

Rose, on the other hand, is contained plutonium. He paces during introductions, ignoring the fanfare and staring fixedly at the floor. Once the game begins, though, he talks, encourages, lobbies and cheers — in just the right amounts.

A perfect match, it seems, for BYU — fire beneath ice.

More than that, though, Rose has given his Cougars confidence. How many of his players are ticketed for the NBA? Not many. But Rose has this year's team feeling it could beat the Celtics. That, in large part, is due to smart scheduling. The Cougars didn't dodge good opposition, they took advantage. Thus, a win over currently No. 12-rated Louisville and hard-fought losses against No. 1 North Carolina and No. 17 Michigan State gave the Cougars a sense of equality. In both the losses, they walked off sounding convinced they should have won.

By the time they got to the Mountain West, they weren't about to be intimidated.

Thus, they finished up what they started. All that's left is one more game, followed by the conference tournament, and then, they hope, something BYU hasn't done since 1993 — a win in the NCAA Tournament.

Cougar players took turns snipping the nets, during Wednesday's post-game festivities, saving the last cut for Rose. Fans roared as he held up the net, then leaped into the arms of his players.

Maybe he wasn't a rock star, leaping into a mosh pit.

Still, there was no doubt who was the leader of the band.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com