Anytime you can get an NCAA Champion and former NBA player to be a part of your basketball program, there is typically an excitement that comes along with it. When Utah Valley University announced the hiring of Mark Pope as the new head coach of the men’s basketball team last summer the excitement was exactly what you would expect. There was a certain buzz around campus, and the good news for UVU is that the same excitement still exists even during the cold of winter. Pope would be the first to tell you of the high expectations he has for the program. In an article published in The Review, Pope said, “I think we’ll be successful in this league. I wouldn’t come here if I didn’t think we could win.”
The Wolverines have gone 9-11 so far this season and have done more on the court than many expected. Players having to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules, and injuries have plagued UVU so far. However, the Wolverines have a bright future that all starts with Coach Pope.
Before he became the head coach for UVU, Pope was an assistant with the BYU men’s basketball team. Chris Collinsworth was one of the players on the BYU roster during Pope’s tenure with the Cougars. Collinsworth believes that Pope was the right hire and that UVU got one of the best new coaches in the nation.
“I’d say the biggest difference between him and most other coaches is the fact that he played in the Pac-12, the SEC (for Pitino at Kentucky) and then in the NBA for guys like George Karl,” Collinsworth said. “The fact that Coach Pope played for big name coaches like Pitino and Karl will help him as he recruits players to UVU. Players love to hear coach’s backgrounds and to know that they are going to have the opportunity to play for coaches that know what success feels like. His NBA experience will bring a different perspective and a lot of basketball experience.”
UVU is doing all that they can to become a competitive program and reach greater heights. The men’s basketball team has had success in the past and Pope is hoping to take the program to the next level. To become great, teams need to have a good coach and players that are willing to buy into the process of getting to the next level.
“I think he helps UVU get to the next level because he does have one of the more marketable basketball resumes as a coach,” Collinsworth said. “It will be easier for him to go convince some of these high quality players that he is the right coach for them and as he starts to get those high quality players, and if UVU starts winning, UVU’s name will become marketable.”
This is only the beginning for Pope and the UVU men’s basketball team. The future is as bright as it has ever been for the program. UVU got it right when they hired Coach Pope. UVU Athletic Director Vince Otoupal put it best on the day he announced Pope as the new coach: “It’s going to be a great ride.”
Sean is a Sophomore at UVU, studying communications. He is originally from Cherokee, N.C. Follow him on twitter @seanmaccourtney