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Rick Pitino endorses Mark Pope as new head coach of Kentucky men’s basketball

University of Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino asked fans to support the team in the final games of the season. Photo by Michael Reaves

Kentucky basketball coaching legend Rick Pitino took to social media to publicly endorse Mark Pope, who was hired to be the head coach of the Cats on Friday.

In a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Pitino said he felt Pope was ready for the mantle.

“What a special day for the University of Kentucky,” he said. “The leader — the captain of the untouchables — is coming home to lead the Wildcats.”

Pitino is not just a former head coach of Kentucky, he is Pope’s former coach, with the new man in charge, along with Jeff Sheppard — father of Reed — leading Kentucky to its sixth national championship in 1996.

Pope was drafted into the NBA out of college and enjoyed a lengthy playing career in both the league and over in Turkey before moving into a future of coaching.

After rising from assistant to head coach of Utah Valley, Pope made the jump to BYU, a school which has since become power five, and will be taking over his alma mater Kentucky after former head coach John Calipari jumped ship for Arkansas.

Mark Pope. Image source from X, formerly known as Twitter, @markpopeukcoach

“A lot of people out there talk about Jay Wright, Danny Hurley, Billy Donovan, they all had their trials and tribulations as well early on,” Pitino said. “But Mark Pope went into the Big 12 this year and in his first year got to the NCAA (Tournament).”

Making the jump from the West Coast Conference (WCC) to the Big 12 was a move BYU made in big part because of football after the conference added four new members following the departures of Texas and Oklahoma for the SEC.

Entering year one, expectations were low for three of the four Big 12 newbies — Houston was expected to be a power and was — but out of Cincinnati, UCF and itself, BYU managed to rack up notable wins at Kansas and Baylor and go back to the big dance.

“Mark Pope offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino continued. “The way his team’s move, the way his team’s shoot the three, the ball movement is outstanding. What some of you don’t realize is how good a basketball mind he has. How relentless a recruiter he will be.”

Pitino continued with arguably his most glowing recommendation, regarding how Pope understands the value and importance of Kentucky basketball.

“I remember as if it’s yesterday,” Pitino said. “John Pelphrey getting misty eyes in my first year as basketball coach at Kentucky. Every time he put on the uniform he was near tears. I said, ‘John, what is with you?’ He said, ‘Coach, you just don’t understand what this means to all of us from Kentucky.’ Nobody epitomizes the name Kentucky on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope. You have one of the premier young coaches in the game. Relish it because he will do you proud.”

Pope’s introductory press conference has not yet been announced but is tentatively scheduled for Sunday and will be open to the public per UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart on KSR.

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Cole Parke, Sports Editor

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    Terry OlsonApr 12, 2024 at 1:25 pm

    Congratulations, wish you nothing but best of luck. He is now our Offical Coach of UK and if you love UK, lets get behind him and give him all our support