LOCAL NEWS

Mark Pope calls Kentucky job ‘pinnacle of coaching in college basketball’

Apr 12, 2024, 8:30 AM | Updated: 8:40 am

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PROVO – Mark Pope to Kentucky is official.

The Kentucky Wildcats announced Mark Pope as their 23rd head coach on Friday morning. This concludes his five-year tenure at BYU, which began in 2019.

Kentucky officially hires Mark Pope

Kentucky pursued coaches such as Baylor’s Scott Drew and reportedly UConn’s Dan Hurley. But they zeroed in on Pope, a former captain and alum of Kentucky royalty, the 1996 National Championship team.

“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,” Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “As a captain on the ‘96 championship team, Mark was a beloved and respected teammate. 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.”

Mark Pope was 110-52 during his five seasons with the BYU basketball program. He led the Cougars to two NCAA Tournament appearances, which would have been three if not for the COVID-19 pandemic taking away the 2020 NCAA Tournament.

Pope calls Kentucky the ‘pinnacle of coaching in college basketball’

Pope, who was linked to coaching searches at Washington, USC, and Louisville, ends up at his dream job with the Kentucky Wildcats.

“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball. It’s the definition of blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation ever year,” Pope said. “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.

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope will reportedly make $5.5 million per year, making him one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball.

Yesterday, when national reports surfaced that Mark Pope was in the mix to land the Kentucky head coach position, Pope’s old Kentucky head coach Rick Pitino told NJ.com that Pope would be “an unbelievable choice” to lead the Wildcats program.

BYU has begun its search for a new head coach. Some notable targets for the position include Utah assistant coach Chris Burgess and UNLV assistant Barret Peery.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and hosts the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X: @Mitch_Harper.

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Mark Pope calls Kentucky job ‘pinnacle of coaching in college basketball’