On June 7, UVU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope signed a new six-year contract extension that will take him through the 2023-2024 season.
Last November, Coach Pope spoke with Vince Otoupal, Associate Vice President and director of athletics, about the possibility of a contract extension. During a two and a half month period, Pope was asked some intriguing questions: “Is Utah Valley a stepping stone job?”
“Has it been a great three-year run, and are we exhausted?”
“Our ceiling is really high, and it terrifies me to say that because we are already in uncharted territories. We are trying to reinvent ourselves all the time,” Pope said.
Pope doesn’t believe in taking a job, spending a few years growing the organization, then moving onto bigger and better things. Rather, he “turns the cube”every day and tries something new. Coach Pope’s main focus with this basketball organization is doing the unexpected. With that, Pope believes that year four and five are vital in the growth of players and the team, notably with the legendary years they have had so far.
Finishing second in the WAC, while beating their rivals New Mexico State, was very exciting for Pope and his team. Over the last three years under Pope’s direction, UVU men’s basketball made a major leap in rank. They went from ranking 321 in the country, to 92. This is a huge feat for the team and for Coach Pope, but he still trusts that they are “just scratching the surface”. “This is like our little start-up.
We’re in the basement and we’re trying to go do something nobody thinks we can do.”This mentality makes Pope excited about incoming UVU President Astrid Tuminez. She has defied the odds and done things others believed she couldn’t do, which is the same mindset Coach Pope has, so he is very excited to work with her.Even though the team has reached such a significant ranking, they still have a limited budget.
This lead Coach Pope to put one of UVU’s core values -engaged learning -to work. Pope uses on-campus resources for team building, training, and recruitment efforts. Rather than bringing in Navy Seals, Pope uses UVU’s Emergency Services center and the Utah Fire and Rescue Academy, located at UVU, to put his men through intense training days. Coach has also teamed up with the Exercise Science department on campus to use their equipment, such as the BodPod, to help keep his men healthy and performing to the best of their ability.
Pope has high expectations for his men this coming season. The team is hoping to win the WAC, and also improve their ranking. Pope hopes to build from last year’s experiences, and continue to grow into a powerful Division I team.