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Kentucky has a replacement for John Calipari!

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Kentucky has hired their new head Men's basketball coach. However, in a shocking turn of events, Kentucky has hired BYU’s Mark Pope. It’s a bit shocking, knowing that Kentucky reportedly was going after names like Baylor’s Scott Drew, Alabama’s Nate Oates, UConn’s Dan Hurley, Chicago Bulls’ Billy Donovan and even St. John’s Rick Pino. Their first choice was Uconn`s Dan Hurley. But of course he is coming off back to back titles with the Huskies, so he would not leave for the Wildcats. Their second choice and maybe their best option was Baylor`s Scott Drew. Drew rebuilt Baylor and won a title with the Bears in 2021 when they upset Gonzaga in the championship game. However, Drew decided to not take the job and thought it was best to stay in Waco, despite having a great relationship with Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart. They had some other choices, but a lot of them took their names out of the running, which were Alabama’s Nate Oates and Chicago Bulls’ Billy Donovan. Now that Kentucky has their replacement for John Calipari, he will immediately need to guide the Wildcats to success which includes a run in the tourney.

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John Calipari shocked everyone and left Kentucky for SEC rival, Arkansas. He decided to leave on his own terms and sign a 5 year contract with the Razorback. It was a surprise as Calipari and Kentucky had just met and it seemed like they were going to give him another shot to try to turn it around. But that was not the case as he decided to leave Lexington and head for Fayetteville. Kentucky is normally a place where a lot of head coaches would want to coach, but instead many turned it down. It begs the question if the Kentucky job no longer has the appeal it used to. Calipari had success early on at Kentucky, but then struggled after 2015. Since 2019, the Wildcats have only have one NCAA Tournament win. Since 2021, Kentucky has been upset twice by small schools such as St. Peters and Oakland.

Kentucky has officially named Mark Pope as the new coach for the Wildcats. Pope played for the Cats from 1992 until 1996 and was a captain for their title team in 1996 when Rick Pitino was the head coach. After it became official that Pope was the replacement for John Calipari, his former head coach Pitino congratulated him and spoke glowingly of the former BYU coach. After college, Pope played professional ball in the NBA and Europe for seven seasons. He was drafted by the Pacers in the second round of the 1996 draft. After his professional coach, he went into coaching and was an assistant at various places such as Georgia, Wake Forest and BYU. His first head coaching job was at Utah Valley where he was from 2015 until 2019. He then returned back to BYU where this time he was the head coach. During his 5 seasons with the Cougars, he went 110-52 and 49-29 in conference play. He made the tournament twice and would have in 2020 if it wasn't for the pandemic. Even though he failed to win a game in the tournament, BYU was able to do well transitioning to the Big 12 where they won 23 games which was good enough for the 6th seed in the NCAA Tournament. During the WCC days, BYU topped Gonzaga and was in a position to play for the title game before the tournament shut down because of the Covid pandemic. Pop brings a wealth of experience to  Lexington which should be good for the Wildcats. He also has a lot of ties with the program since he is an alumni. At one time he did say that one day he would like to return to Kentucky to be either the head coach or assistant. He also has the ability to recruit talent as he was able to rebuild BUY and turn them back into a good program. He will have as before Calipari left, he had recruited the second best class in the nation. However, these days you have be active in the transfer which portal includes NIL (name, image & likeness. Calipari struggled with this during his last few years with the Wildcats and that is a reason why kept losing ealy in the tournament. When you have 18 and 19 year olds playing against guys who are in their 20`s it's hard to compete. Pope will have to guide them through that area and hope to return back to glory.

Kentucky has a rich basketball tradition and their boosters will empty their deep pockets for another run. Mark Pope is now the man in charge and needs to find a way to get the Wildcats back in position to win the big games such as the SEC & the NCAA Tournament. He has a lot of faith in him as on Sunday when Kentucky introduced Mark Pope as the new coach, there was a sold out arena for just a press conference. Clearly Kentucky is hungry for postseason success and Pope will need to achieve during his time in Lexington.  

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