BYU's Mark Pope named coach at alma mater Kentucky

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 12 Apr, 2024 at 02:37 PM

Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

BYU coach Mark Pope, who won a national title as a player with Kentucky, will return to his alma mater and succeed John Calipari as head coach, Wildcats athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced Friday.

"The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball. It's the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation ever year," Pope said Friday in a statement. "Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul."

Pope, 51, who played two seasons with Kentucky, including the 1995-96 national championship team, guided BYU to two NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons and posted a 110-52 record.

In the just-concluded season, the Cougars' first in the Big 12, BYU went 23-11 overall and 10-8 in the conference. The sixth-seeded Cougars were upset by No. 11 seed Duquesne in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Pope, a 6-foot-10 forward/center who played parts of six NBA seasons, began his coaching career at Georgia as an assistant for the 2009-10 season. He moved on to the same role at Wake Forest (2010-11) and BYU (2011-15) before becoming head coach at Utah Valley (2015-19), where he went 77-56 in four seasons.

"Mark Pope not only brings an impressive record in nine years as a head coach, but also a love of the University of Kentucky and a complete understanding of what our program means to the people of our state," Barnhart said. "As a head coach, he is highly regarded nationally as an innovator. His teams run a unique and dynamic up-tempo offense and they get after it on defense. He is a strong recruiter with international ties and a person of integrity.

"He fully embraces our high expectations and standards and I know that as our fans get reacquainted with Mark, they will be eager to join him on what promises to be an exciting ride."

Calipari left for Arkansas after making four Final Four appearances and winning a national title in 2012 as coach of Kentucky, where he went 410-123. This season, Kentucky went 23-10 overall and 13-5 in the Southeastern Conference but was upset by No. 14 seed Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Baylor's Scott Drew, UConn's Dan Hurley, Alabama's Nate Oats and former Villanova coach Jay Wright publicly said they weren't interested in the Kentucky position.

Former college coach Billy Donovan, an ex-Kentucky assistant who is now head coach of the Chicago Bulls, said he was committed to his current role.

--Field Level Media