Analysts weigh in on UK hiring Mark Pope: From ‘great move’ to fans aren’t ‘gonna go wild’

After the news broke Thursday night that Kentucky is hiring BYU’s Mark Pope to be its next men’s basketball coach, here’s what some national media members had to say:

Seth Davis: “If Mark Pope is the next coach at Kentucky as these reports indicate I think it’s a great move. Mark is super smart and engaging, coaches an entertaining style, understands the job and won’t get caught up in the wrong stuff. All things considered this ended well for Kentucky. … Pope didn’t waste a second saying yes. You want a coach who can’t wait to get there, not one who needs to be convinced. I believe most UK fans understand that and are ready to get behind one of their own. Twitter isn’t real!!!”

Jeff Goodman, Field of 68: “Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart swung for Scott Drew, Dan Hurley and Nate Oats. He missed. 15 years ago, he was persuaded to go after someone with “baggage.” This time he went with his choice. Mark Pope. … I am not saying I would have chosen Pope over Bruce Pearl, but Mitch Barnhart didn’t go the direction of Pearl, Beard or Sean Miller. Pope also had limitations at BYU he won’t have at Kentucky. Did a heck of a job this season at BYU in first season in Big 12.”

Andy Katz, “Mark Pope brings a tremendous amount of energy, passion and purpose to his alma mater Kentucky. @KentuckyMBB fans will surely be entertained by his uptempo offensive style and his commitment to producing and developing shooters. Pope’s engaging personality will make him a fan favorite as the community gets reacquainted to him in the coming months and year.”

Peter Burns, ESPN: “Can’t help but think of the speed in which takes fly in 2024 … Kentucky fans have gone from incendiary to intrigued about the Mark Pope hire … It’s been all of 12 hours. The more they learn about his style of ball & hear about his love of the program, the more they’ll like it.”

Gary Parrish, CBS Sports: “Mark Pope might be great at Kentucky. (Any competent coach should be great at Kentucky.) But I explained a few hours ago on the @EyeOnCBBPodcast why I would’ve aggressively pursued Billy Donovan, and the idea that UK reportedly didn’t at all is pretty wild.”

Myron Medcalf, ESPN: “This is not how I expected this search to end. … Good X’s and O’s matter. But in the NIL/transfer portal era, coaches are general managers. It starts with talent. And then, you have to do it all over again next year. Kentucky fans been driving Ferraris all these years. Garage might look a little different with a new head coach.”

Nicole Auerbach, The Athletic: “It really is wild that KENTUCKY just hired a coach who has never won an NCAA Tournament game. Like, let that sink in.”

Jimmy Dykes, ESPN: “I got to know Mark Pope 2 years ago at Battle4Atlantis. He is smart, engaging, confident in who he is and his style of play. He knows that Kentucky jersey well. Like every other coach in the SEC… recruiting will be the ultimate test. He will be embraced by UK fan base. Twitter is not reality …”

Rob Dauster, Field of 68: “Buy into it. Maybe it’ll take 2-3 years. But Mark Pope is the antithesis of a lot of the things that you grew tired of under Calipari. He’s outperformed expectations and resources. He’s one of your own. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I think he’s gonna have Kentucky in and around the top of the SEC, and I think you need to give him a legit chance”

John Fanta, Fox Sports: “Nine years ago, Mark Pope was just taking over the job at Utah Valley. Tonight, he’s finalizing an agreement to become the next head coach at the University of Kentucky. Pope is one of UK’s own, is one of the good guys in the business and certainly has pride for the place.”

Kyle Tucker, The Athletic: “If Pope is the guy, I feel genuinely bad for him that the reception is gonna be pretty awful. Not his fault, but fans are hot. If you’re moving on from Calipari, and the top of the list is Hurley, Donovan, Oats, Drew, they’re not gonna go wild over a guy with zero NCAA wins.”

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic: “Mark Pope is probably an upgrade in terms of on-court coaching (runs modern principles on offense, good coach) and a downgrade in program stability (will he consistently get kids? What level is he as a recruiter?) Really interesting hire, honestly, for Kentucky. Could work well.”

Fran Fraschilla, ESPN: “I don’t traffic in @KentuckyMBB basketball much during the conference season but are these people always this whacked? … They hired one of their own and they’re going ballistic.”

BYU head coach Mark Pope slaps hands with students after a win against Central Florida on Feb. 13.
BYU head coach Mark Pope slaps hands with students after a win against Central Florida on Feb. 13.

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