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What Mark Pope said about his viral water bottle explosion

BYU coach Mark Pope gestures to player during the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, in Provo, Utah.
BYU coach Mark Pope gestures to player during the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Cincinnati on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, in Provo, Utah. | Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

Two games into BYU’s Big 12 tenure, head coach Mark Pope is already making a splash — literally.

Trailing by five points with under a minute left to play Tuesday at Baylor, Cougars point guard Dallin Hall was whistled for his fifth foul of the contest, ending both his night and BYU’s hopes of a late comeback.

To say Pope did not like the foul call would be an understatement. Keeping his mouth shut, the coach known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve slowly paced over toward his bench, calmly picked up a Dasani water bottle and slammed it on top of the scorer’s table, using such violent force that the bottle exploded and sprayed its contents straight into the air to drench BYU’s radio broadcasters Greg Wrubell and Mark Durrant.

The referees were not amused by Pope’s waterworks and charged him with a technical foul, sending Baylor to the line for additional free throws to all but guarantee a Bears victory.

While clearly a display of frustration in the moment, Pope chose to find humor in the incident during his weekly appearance on BYUtv’s “BYU Basketball with Mark Pope” program Wednesday night.

“The cap was screwed on, so I thought everything was going to be fine, but it’s very thin plastic,” Pope told Wrubell, the show’s host. “It’s probably good for the world, but it was bad for me last night.”

Though possibly tongue in cheek, Pope used “water bottle-gate” as an example of how complicated the life of a coach can be. “We had a whole staff meeting this morning about getting a more firm plastic water bottle on the bench to keep me out of harm’s way.”

Pope made sure to apologize to Wrubell for the “shower,” acknowledging that it was “not my finest moment.”

It may not have been his finest, but it was definitely one of Pope’s funniest.

What did Pope say about Dawson Baker’s health?

Along with his water bottle riffing, Pope offered a new update on guard Dawson Baker, who suffered a recent injury setback and did not travel with the team to Waco.

“It’s heavily looking like he’s going to have to have surgery,” Pope said of Baker. “We should get final word here in the next 24 hours. That’s the way it looks right now.”

Baker had been hindered by a foot issue throughout the season before debuting with the Cougars on Dec. 16 against Georgia State, only to reaggravate the injury and require further attention.

Beginning his college career at UC-Irvine, Baker averaged 12.9 points per game over three seasons with the Anteaters before transferring to BYU this past summer.

The 6-foot-4 Orange County native was poised to play a major role on Pope’s squad this year prior to his foot trouble. He ultimately appeared in four games for the Cougars, most notably in a 10-point, six-assist outing against Bellarmine on Dec. 22.

Brigham Young Cougars guard Dawson Baker (25) shoots during a men’s basketball game against the Bellarmine Knights at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, Dec. 22, 2023. BYU won 101-59. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Brigham Young Cougars guard Dawson Baker (25) shoots during a men’s basketball game against the Bellarmine Knights at the Marriott Center in Provo on Friday, Dec. 22, 2023. BYU won 101-59. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

“He was so fantastic for two or three games, but he was never even close to full capacity,” Pope said. “He actually brings a very different slice to our team, his ability to turn hips and get downhill at will without needing any action is pretty special. If it does turn out that he can’t help us this year, he’s certainly going to be a huge piece for us moving forward.”

Should Baker officially be shut down for the remainder of the current season, he would still hold two more years of eligibility at BYU.