What Mark Pope’s hiring means for Kentucky, BYU

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By Calvin S. Nelson

Final month, SMU shocked the faculty basketball world when it fired Rob Lanier following a 20-win season. The transfer opened the door for Andy Enfield to go away USC and fill that opening. Then, Eric Musselman left Arkansas to exchange Enfield, and John Calipari signed a huge cope with the Razorbacks, which received us right here, to the opening at Kentucky.

The preliminary rumblings recommended Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart would swing for the fences. And he did.

However UConn head coach Dan Hurley, contemporary off his back-to-back NCAA title runs, stated no after reportedly being provided an enormous wage. Then, Scott Drew determined to remain in Waco at Baylor. It was unclear if different candidates, resembling Billy Donovan, have been severely approached.

Both method, it appeared Barnhart needed to land an skilled coach with a successful pedigree.

Mark Pope was by no means talked about till it appeared Kentucky had failed to draw its high candidates. Pope, who gained a nationwide title as a participant at Kentucky in 1996, has a stable teaching file after stints at Utah Valley and BYU. However let’s be sincere right here: It is a main distinction from Calipari.

The expectation was Kentucky would make a splash with its subsequent coach. Proper now, there are extra questions than solutions in regards to the anticipated hiring of Pope to be the subsequent Wildcats head coach.

Jeff Borzello and Myron Medcalf try to reply a couple of of them, together with what the transfer would imply for Pope, Kentucky and BYU.

What would compel Mark Pope to take the job at Kentucky? Why did Kentucky provide him the job?

Myron Medcalf: Mitch Barnhart had a want listing of who’s who coaches. I am positive he’ll admit he by no means thought he’d find yourself with Pope. There’s nothing unsuitable with Pope. He is a great coach with a stable file at this level in his profession. However that is Kentucky, arguably the highest job in faculty basketball. Though Pope has ties to the college, it is a important promotion for a man who coached at Utah Valley and BYU however by no means gained an NCAA match recreation. However Barnhart might need most well-liked a youthful coach — Pope is 51 years previous — and familiarity when his high decisions fell by.

Jeff Borzello: Kentucky clearly took huge swings within the hours and days after John Calipari left for Arkansas. Jay Wright distanced himself from the job shortly, as did Hurley and Donovan. Kentucky reached out to Nate Oats, who launched an announcement saying he was staying at Alabama. Shaka Sensible was on the listing; he additionally wasn’t leaving. Drew mulled the choice for a day however declined. Kentucky made another run at Hurley, providing him an enormous wage — however he as soon as once more determined to remain. And that left Pope as the subsequent identify on the listing, a former Kentucky participant who gained a nationwide championship in Lexington. The potential targets on the subsequent tier have been all flawed in a technique or one other, and Pope’s connections to the college and understanding of the expectations gave him an edge.

Is that this a great match?

Medcalf: Pope gained a nationwide title, and he understands Kentucky basketball, together with its rabid fan base. Past that? It is tough to see how this suits what Kentucky needed: a coach with an enormous identify who can proceed to draw elite gamers and compete for nationwide championships. Maybe Pope will try this sometime. He is following a man who attracted the highest recruiting courses within the nation and, at his finest, reached the Last 4 all however one 12 months from 2010-11 to 2014-15 and gained a nationwide title. The expectation is to make Kentucky a contender once more. This is not a rebuild.

Borzello: It is an fascinating match, another in keeping with Duke hiring Jon Scheyer and North Carolina hiring Hubert Davis than, say, Arkansas hiring John Calipari. Pope does not have the résumé among the different potential candidates possessed, by no means successful an NCAA match recreation or a regular-season title and spending just one 12 months teaching in a high-major convention. However he is received some identify recognition, particularly in Lexington, and he’ll perceive what being the top coach of Kentucky entails. The expectations are going to be monumental from day one, nonetheless, one thing he hasn’t handled throughout his time at Utah Valley and BYU.

What’s Pope’s first order of enterprise in Lexington?

Medcalf: A coach is often requested to win the information convention and make a direct splash with the fan base. However I feel there shall be a number of backlash. If he is personable, it should assist his trigger. The one actual approach to handle adverse reactions shall be to assemble high expertise from each the switch portal and the highschool ranks — from these gamers who aren’t but dedicated. His window is small, although. His phrases will not matter as a lot as his recruiting class.

Borzello: The identical factor it could be for anybody who changed Calipari: Rebuild the roster. Since Calipari left for Arkansas, Rob Dillingham turned professional, Aaron Bradshaw entered the portal and three of this system’s six 2024 commitments reopened their recruitments. There’s not loads left for Pope, particularly with a few different gamers anticipated to go to the NBA. And in contrast to Scott Drew or Dan Hurley, it is unlikely Pope brings a number of Kentucky-level gamers with him to the Wildcats.

What’s subsequent for BYU?

Medcalf: BYU is an efficient job with a supportive fan base. It additionally has robust boosters who again this system. Lots of coaches will inquire, however Mark Madsen — who’s at present at Cal — appears to take advantage of sense. Like Pope, Madsen additionally had a profitable stint at Utah Valley earlier than transferring to Berkeley final summer season. He has native ties, and he performed within the NBA for a protracted stretch. Madsen looks like the correct man.

Borzello: BYU is prone to have a reasonably brief listing to exchange Pope. Madsen shall be on it, though he has a buyout and it is unclear if he’d wish to go away Berkeley after one season. A few different names to look at: UNLV assistant coach Barret Peery, Dallas Mavericks assistant coach Alex Jensen and Utah assistant coach Chris Burgess.

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