Mark Pope appears to be choice as next coach at Kentucky

Published 10:23 am Friday, April 12, 2024

By Keith Taylor and Mark Maynard

Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky’s search for a new basketball coach took a surprising turn Thursday night with Mark Pope, a member of the Wildcats’ 1996 national championship team, expected to be named to replace John Calipari, according to multiple reports.

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Pope, 51, has been coaching at BYU for the past five seasons. The Cougars have appeared in back-to-back NCAA tournaments as No. 6 seeds, only to be bounced in the first round by No. 11 seeds.

BYU plays a freewheeling style with plenty of 3-pointers going up. They fired 1,063 long-range bombs -more than half of their overall field goal attempts -making 370 last season. The Cougars scored 81 points per game.

Pope led BYU to a 110-52 record. He previously was head coach at Utah Valley where he went 77-56 in four seasons.

Before embarking on a coaching career, Pope completed two years of medical school at Columbia University before becoming Georgia’s director of basketball operations in 2009.

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander was first to report Pope would become Kentucky’s next coach. ESPN was also reporting it, saying a deal is expected to come together in the near future.

Earlier Thursday, Scott Drew took his name out of the running to remain at Baylor and two-time national champion coach Dan Hurley of Connecticut made it clear he wasn’t interested in being the next UK coach.

Making an appearance on “The Jim Rome Show,” Hurley was emphatic that no amount of money would remove him from his position at this time: “Once you make a certain amount of money, it doesn’t make that much of a difference in your life. I couldn’t be happier than I am here. … I’m going to be here going for a three-peat.”

The next choice was thought to be Billy Donovan, a former UK assistant and current coach of the Chicago Bulls who led Florida to back-to-back titles in 2006-07. Donovan has been out of college coaching since 2015 when he took over at Oklahoma City. He has been with the Bulls since the 2020-21 season.

Donovan said he was committed to coaching the Bulls, ESPN reported.

Drew seemed like a good bet, but he said no thanks Thursday morning and issued this statement.

“We truly believe God has called my family and I to continue our work here at Baylor, surrounded by the best people and community anyone could be blessed to have,” Drew said.