A look at former Kentucky players who now lead Division-1 programs


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats forwards Daimion Collins (4) and Lance Ware (55) stand with assistant coach K.T. Turner before the No. 6 Kentucky vs. No. 11 Providence mens basketball game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 17, 2023, at Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Kentucky won 61-53. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky basketball is historically one of the best programs in college basketball, having been the first program to reach 2,000 wins and winning eight national championships, second to only UCLA, which dominated the 60s and 70s.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that many who leave the program, whether as coaches or players, often go on to find success in the world of collegiate basketball.

It was announced earlier in the year that Kentucky assistant K.T. Turner would become the new head coach at Texas-Arlington, but that was far from the only former-Cat-turned-head-coach news of the year.

It also became official on March 21 that the Wofford Terriers, a program that plays in the Southern Conference, removed the franchise tag from associate head coach Dwight Perry, officially making him the head coach of the program.

Perry, who played basketball at Kentucky from 2006-09, got into coaching immediately after his playing career ended, becoming an intern coach at Stanford, a job he held until 2011. 

After leaving Stanford, he worked as a graduate assistant at VCU until 2014, when he became an assistant coach at Furman. Perry then joined Wofford as an assistant in 2019 and became an associate head coach quickly after.

He was promoted again to interim head coach after former Terriers coach Jay McAuley resigned, earning the full job after the end of the season.

Perry is far from the only success story at the Division-1 level to play at Kentucky, with three other Division-1 coaches having played ball in Lexington prior to joining the coaching sphere.

Another, Travis Ford, played at Kentucky from 1991-94 after one year at Missouri, playing for newly named St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino.

Ford was named head coach at Campbellsville, an NAIA school in Kentucky, in 1997, a job he held until 2000 after being named Mid-South Coach of the Year in 1999.

After Campbellsville, Ford coached at Eastern Kentucky, a job he held until 2005. It was at EKU that Ford nearly stunned Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, though the Colonels fell 72-64 in 2005.

After EKU, he joined UMass before accepting the job at Oklahoma State in 2008. He stayed in Stillwater until 2016, when he and the school agreed to part ways and he became the new head coach of Saint Louis, where he still remains today.

Elsewhere, John Pelphrey also played basketball at Kentucky from 1988-92. He began his coaching career quickly after his playing career ended, becoming an assistant at Oklahoma State in 1993. He would take different assistant positions at Marshall and Florida before finally earning his first head coaching gig in 2002 at South Alabama.

He found success with the Jaguars, eventually earning a role as the head coach of Arkansas in 2007. Unfortunately for Pelphrey, the pairing was doomed to fail, and he was eventually sacked in 2011 despite bringing in a highly regarded recruiting class.

He returned to being an assistant at Florida before also being an assistant at Alabama from 2016-19 until he finally got another opportunity at a head coaching job, becoming the man in charge of Tennessee Tech, where he remains today.

Finally, Mark Pope played at Kentucky from 1994-96 after two years at Washington before eventually being drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers.

Following the end of his playing career in 2005, Pope joined the coaching world, becoming an assistant at Georgia in 2009. He would go on to be an assistant at Wake Forest and BYU before earning the head coaching job at Utah Valley in 2015.

He remained at UVU until 2019 when he was called to replace a retiring Dave Rose at BYU, where he remains to this day, having become the fastest ever BYU coach to reach 60 wins and leading the Cougars to two second-place conference finishes and an NCAA Tournament, with the tournament having been canceled in 2020.

Prior to the end of the 2022-23 season, Sean Woods, who also previously played at Kentucky, had been the head coach of the Southern Jaguars since 2018, but he was fired from the job on March 24 after the Jaguars finished 15-17 and third in the SWAC.