Mark Pope makes first hire for Kentucky staff. He’s bringing a trusted assistant from BYU.

Mark Pope’s first step toward putting together his new coaching staff at Kentucky is complete.

Longtime Pope assistant Cody Fueger is coming to Lexington, an expected move following the Wildcats’ hire of the former BYU head coach to replace John Calipari nearly two weeks ago.

Even before Pope was officially announced as the next Kentucky coach April 12, Fueger (pronounced FEE-gurr) was widely expected in college basketball circles to follow him. UK announced the hire Monday.

Fueger has served as an assistant under Pope for the past nine seasons — every year of Pope’s head coaching career — with the last five spent at BYU and the four seasons before that at Utah Valley. Immediately prior to those two stops, Pope and Fueger worked together at BYU under head coach Dave Rose, with Pope serving as an assistant and Fueger in the role of director of basketball operations.

“Cody is one of the most innovative offensive minds in all of college basketball,” Pope said, according to a news release by the school. “He has a grounded, wild creativity that is pushing the envelope in how this game is growing.”

Fueger’s first full coaching job was with Pope in his first season at Utah Valley, where they ultimately amassed a 34-24 league record in the Western Athletic Conference over four years and made the CBI tournament in each of their last three seasons there.

At BYU, Pope and Fueger made the NCAA Tournament twice in five seasons, earning a 6 seed both times before suffering upset losses in the first round. The Cougars were also projected to be a 6 seed in the 2020 tournament, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Coach Pope as we chase banners and carry on the tradition at this premier program,” Fueger said. “Helping players grow on and off the court has always been a passion of mine, and I’m honored to get to continue that passion with the greatest fan base in the country.”

Lynn Lloyd, co-director of the Utah Prospects — the premier grassroots basketball program in the state — told the Herald-Leader that Fueger was very involved with in-state recruiting and acted as Pope’s “right-hand guy” at BYU, also instrumental in helping shape the Cougars’ widely praised offensive approach.

“He’s really good on the offensive side of the ball,” Lloyd said. “He’s really dynamic in that way. We had a lot of interactions with Cody, and Cody will be good. He’s a good asset to Mark.”

Chris Burgess spent all four years on Pope’s staff at Utah Valley and the next three seasons at BYU working alongside Fueger — before joining Utah’s staff in 2022 — and he praised his fellow assistant coach in an interview with BYU Sports Nation toward the end of his tenure there.

“From the first day I met him, you could see how hard of a worker he was to become a coach,” Burgess said. “Of all the qualities that Cody has, his integrity is beyond reproach. He cares about the players. If you ask any of the players on the team, they know how much that he loves them and cares for them. He can get on them. He can joke with them. He can challenge them. He can push them. And they trust him, and they like being around him.”

Fueger, 40, graduated from Utah and has a master’s degree from the university. While there, he served as a student assistant under legendary coach Rick Majerus, who led the Utes to the national title game in 1998, when they lost to Kentucky.

“He worked under Rick Majerus,” Pope said. “And anybody that knows Coach Majerus knows how demanding that position is, and he did it as a manager.”

Fueger also held director of basketball operations jobs at Utah State, UC Riverside and Louisiana before working with Pope for the first time at BYU in 2013.

He’s been described as the “architect” of the BYU offense, which ranked No. 14 nationally in offensive efficiency this past season, according to the KenPom ratings. The approach is heavy on 3-point shots — BYU was second in the country with 32.0 attempted 3-pointers per game in 2023-24 — and Fueger has helped develop the Cougars’ top players in recent years.

“He knows what each guy needs, and he is able to get that out of each of those players,” two-time West Coast Conference first-teamer Alex Barcello told BYU Sports Nation. “He’s able to know what to do in order for that player to respond and execute the way that he believes that player can play.”

Fueger is the first official addition to Pope’s staff at Kentucky, and more announcements are expected in the coming days.

Former Georgia head coach Mark Fox, who gave Pope his first assistant job in 2009, is likely to join the UK staff in a non-recruiting role. Jason Hart — a former NBA teammate of Pope’s who most recently was head coach of the G League Ignite team — is also expected to be on the Wildcats’ staff next season.

Cody Fueger has been an assistant coach under Mark Pope for the past nine seasons, including each of the last five years at BYU and Utah Valley before that.
Cody Fueger has been an assistant coach under Mark Pope for the past nine seasons, including each of the last five years at BYU and Utah Valley before that.

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