Former UVU head coach Mark Pope to be next Kentucky coach

Reading Time: 3 minutes Former Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope has agreed to become the next head coach of Kentucky Basketball after spending five years in Provo.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Former Utah Valley Men’s Basketball head coach Mark Pope has accepted a deal to become the new head coach of the University of Kentucky Basketball program.

Pope, who left Utah Valley to become the head man at BYU, is accepting a reported 5-year $27 million deal to coach the Wildcats in the wake of former Kentucky legend John Calipari announcing his departure to Arkansas.

In his tenure at UVU, Pope led the Wolverines to a 77-56 record over four seasons, two 20-win seasons, and an all-American in Jake Toolson.

During his time in Provo, Pope helped the Cougars reach 20 wins in four of his five seasons while receiving national rankings in those four seasons and reaching the NCAA Tournament two times not counting the 2020 Tournament which was canceled due to COVID-19.

This marks the second Wolverine head coach to move on to a power conference team, the previous being Mark Madsen who is being paid by Cal roughly $2.65 million a year with an extension through 2030, including some lucrative buyout clauses that may prevent schools from poaching him away.

“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 the team’s press release. “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.”

The move makes sense for Pope as he is a Wildcat Alum after being a captain on the 1996 national championship team where he averaged eight points per contest along with five rebounds.

“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 every year,” Pope said in the press release. “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.”

Depending on who the next head coach is for BYU, there could be an influx of players entering the transfer portal, and could be an opportunity for Utah Valley to build its roster with extra players after Drake Allen announced his entrance to the portal earlier this week.

As for the Cougars, it is unsure who the next head coach will be. Robby McCombs (@rtmccombs on Twitter/X) released a shortlist for candidates on on who he expects to be interviewed, the main names being; Madsen, Chris Burgess (Utah), Barret Peery (UNLV).

The current head coach of the Wolverines, Todd Phillips, is not expected to be pursued by BYU and is expected to remain at Utah Valley.

*UPDATE 8:35 am 4/12/24*

Madsen posted to Twitter/X “On behalf of myself and Hannah, we want to thank every single member of the Cal community for your unconditional love and support this year. We have felt welcomed and embraced. Gratitude would be an understatement. We love Cal and the Bay Area. We are excited and fully committed for the future here at Cal. Over the coming weeks, you will continue to see outstanding student-athletes committing and signing to Cal. We are building something special. We will win. We will continue to send players to the NBA. “The Haas of Pain” will be in full effect with rabid students and fans. To Cal Bear alums—-Let’s continue to build more NIL opportunities across each and every sport at Cal. As we move to the ACC let’s support the “California Legends Collective.” Let’s become a national leader in NIL. Cal is a world class institution with world class athletics. An honor to be part of the community. Mark & Hannah #GoBears

It seems that Madsen has taken himself out of the running of the job and is continuing his commitment to Cal.