Mark Pope Appears On Potential Big Boards For Kentucky Job

Apr 8, 2024, 1:13 AM | Updated: 11:02 am

Mark Pope, BYU Basketball, Kentucky Wildcats...

BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope is listed as a potential candidate for the Kentucky Wildcats head coach position. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – Could the Kentucky Wildcats come calling for BYU coach Mark Pope?

It’s possible.

Sunday night, the college basketball world was turned upside down when reports emerged that John Calipari was leaving Kentucky to become the head coach at Arkansas.

Calipari was 410-123 with one national championship and four Final Four appearances during his 15 years in Lexington.

That leaves an opening at one of the biggest college basketball brands in the country. It just so happens to be Mark Pope’s alma mater.

Pope was a National Champion center on Kentucky’s 1996 team, which delivered Big Blue Nation its first title in 18 years. The head coach of that Kentucky team was Rick Pitino. Pitino had Pope as one of the captains of his 1996 Kentucky squad. To this day, Pitino remains proud of the work that Pope has accomplished at BYU.

With that history at Kentucky, Pope has popped up on some national big boards as a potential candidate to fill the Kentucky vacancy.

Mark Pope mentioned as a potential candidate for the Kentucky head coach vacancy

ESPN’s Jeff Borzello put Pope as one of 11 potential candidates to fill the shoes left behind by Calipari. Other names include UConn’s Dan Hurley, who will coach for back-to-back National Titles tonight against Purdue in the National Championship game.

Baylor’s Scott Drew and Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan are among the notables on the list.

The Athletic’s college basketball staff also noted Pope as a potential candidate.

Both outlets raise questions about Pope’s candidacy because he has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game during his career. He’s 0-2 thus far.

Kentucky’s history is nearly second to none. The Wildcats have won National Titles with five of their last seven head coaches dating back to Adolph Rupp, the man after whom their current arena is named.

Pope has a deep respect for Kentucky

Last week, Pope was in Arizona for the Final Four and participated in a live interview with Rob Dauster from The Field of 68 Media Network. Pope was asked how he balances his love for Kentucky from his playing days and his love of BYU as a coach.

“Oh, I love Kentucky. You don’t understand; I love Kentucky. Like, in my soul, I love Coach P (Pitino) and I love Kentucky,” said Mark Pope to the Field of 68 on April 4. “And I’m trying to get a game with St. John’s so we can beat him. I would love to play Kentucky because I want to beat them. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them. I love them like crazy. I love them in my soul. But right now, BYU’s trying to win, man. We’re trying to win. So there’s no conflict for me at all.”

Pope has been the head coach at BYU since 2019. During that stretch, he’s 110-52 overall and has guided BYU to three seasons in the final AP Top 25 rankings.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for 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 Appears On Potential Big Boards For Kentucky Job