Mark Pope named head coach of Kentucky men's basketball

Lexington, Ky. – When it came to his alma mater, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, the captain of the University of Kentucky's 1996 national championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky's storied men's basketball program, UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced Friday.

Pope is a nine-year head coach, with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, and has a career record of 187-108. His team has won 20 or more games in six of the past seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

“Mark Pope brings not only an impressive record in nine years as head coach, but also a love of the University of Kentucky and a thorough understanding of what our program is all about for the people of our state,” Barnhart said. “As a captain on the '96 championship team, Mark was a beloved and respected teammate. As a head coach, he was highly respected nationally as an innovator. His teams ran a unique and dynamic up-tempo offense, and they got it on defense. He has international ties. Strong recruiter and honest person.

“He fully embraces our high expectations and standards, and I know our fans will be eager to join him on what promises to be an exciting ride as they reacquaint themselves with Mark.”

Pope returns to UK from Provo, Utah, where he compiled a 110-52 record (.679) during five campaigns at the helm of BYU. He led the Cougars to three postseason appearances, including two trips to the NCAA Tournament, and missed another attempt when the 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three of his five BYU teams finished the season ranked in the top 20 of Ken Pomeroy's performance ratings.

“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 expected every year,” Pope said. “Equally important, England changed my life as a person forever. The love and passion I have for this program, this university and the people of the Commonwealth goes deep into my soul.

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“I am grateful to Dr. (Eli) Capilodo and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I'm honored to be your next head coach and I can't wait to do this together!

Pope is coming off a 23-11 season in 2023-24. This is BYU's first season in the Big 12 Conference and the Cougars' 10-8 league record is the No. 7 Kansas, no. 11 Baylor and had wins over No. 24 Iowa State. BYU's first win in the Big 12 at Central Florida on Jan. 13 marked Pope's 100th win as the Cougars' head coach.

The Cougars ranked third in the nation in 11.1 3-pointers per game in 2023-24 and ranked in the top 10 in assists per game (3rd) and assist-to-turnover ratio (6th). BYU leads the Big 12 in scoring with 81.4 points per game. They went 12-1 in the AP Poll, winning the Vegas Showdown, BYU's first multi-team event title since 2011. Pope was named the 2024 Naismith College Coach of the Year. Season watch list for his efforts.

Pope's teams also won the postseason in 2020–21, finishing with a 20–7 mark and making BYU's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2015. The Cougars are 24-11 in 2021-22 and advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament. . Under Pope on Jan. 22, the Cougars beat No. 60, making him the fastest BYU coach to reach that mark.

Pope began his head coaching career at BYU in the 2019-20 season, posting a 24-8 record, the most wins for a first-year coach in program history. He was ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press poll and No. 16 in the USA Today/Coaches poll, becoming the first head coach to finish the season with a national ranking in his first season at BYU. The Cougars finished second in the West Coast Conference with a 13-3 record. The Cougars beat No. 2 Gonzaga for their best home win over a ranked opponent in program history. The Covid pandemic has thwarted an almost certain bid for the NCAA Tournament.

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Pope's Cougars were statistically among the top offenses in the nation at 19-20. The Cougars finished the season first in 3-point field goal percentage, second in assist-to-turnover ratio, third in field-goal percentage, fourth in 3-point field goals made per game and fifth in assists per game.

Following his first season with the Cougars, CBS' Matt Norlander named Pope the Employee of the Year. He also received the United States Basketball Writers Association District VIII Coach of the Year Award. He was a semi-finalist for the Werner Lader Naismith Coach of the Year.

Pope's first coaching stint was four years in Utah Valley. Beginning in 2015-16, the Wolverines increased their win total in each season of Pope's tenure, posting a 25-10 overall mark and second-place finish in the Western Athletic Conference in 2018-19. Utah Valley was 30-2 in 2017-19, and its 25 wins in 2019 is a single-season school record.

He began his collegiate career at the University of Washington, where he was named the 1992 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. After his sophomore season, he transferred to Kentucky, where he appeared in every game during his two-year career with the Wildcats. UK won the 1995 and '96 regular season Southeastern Conference championships, the '95 SEC Tournament title and the 1996 NCAA Tournament. He averaged 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds in 69 career games. Pope was named to the All-SEC Tournament Team in 1995, behind a pair of double-doubles in three games, one of which went to overtime in the title game.

Pope was selected by the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the 1996 NBA Draft. He played professional basketball from 1997-2005, including with the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, and Denver Nuggets. In 2000-01, he started 45 games and helped the Bucs reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

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Following his playing days, Pope attended medical school at Columbia University and completed two years before returning to basketball. He joined Mark Fox's staff at Georgia in 2009. He then spent one season as an assistant coach for Jeff Pistelic at Wake Forest and four seasons at BYU under Dave Rose. The Cougars posted four straight 20-win seasons and advanced to postseason play in each of those four years, including three bids to the NCAA Tournament. His success as an assistant at BYU inspired him to become the head coach at Utah Valley.

Pope and his wife Lee Anne have four daughters, Ella, Avery Layla and Shay. He graduated from Kentucky in 1996 with a degree in English.

Pope's record as head coach:

the season School Overall Convention, venue Postseason
2015-16 Utah Valley 12-18 6-8, 5th
2016-17 Utah Valley 17-17 6-8, 5th College Basketball Invitational
2017-18 Utah Valley 23-11 10-4, 2nd College Basketball Invitational
2018-19 Utah Valley 25-10 12-4, 2nd College Basketball Invitational
2019-20 BYU 24-8 13-3, 2nd
2020-21 BYU 20-7 10-3, 2nd NCAA Tournament
2021-22 BYU 24-11 9-6, 5th National Invitation Tournament
2022-23 BYU 19-15 7-9, 5th
2023-24 BYU 23-11 10-8, 5th NCAA Tournament

Those interested in season tickets are encouraged to enter the season-ticket lottery. Due to the high renewal rate of men's basketball season tickets, only a limited number of premium tickets are available each year through the lottery.

A limited number of new lower-tier season tickets are available with a capital pledge, as are members at Rupp Arena's new hospitality venue, the Champions Club. For more information on premium options, please get in touch K Finance Office at (859) 257-6300.

For the latest news on the Kentucky men's basketball team, follow @KentuckyMBB Twitter/x, Facebook, Instagram And TikTokand on the web at UKathletics.com.

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