Kentucky seems to have locked itself in on the person to replace John Calipari as head coach of the men's basketball team -- BYU's Mark Pope. Photo Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports Mar 20, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope talks with the media during the NCAA first round practice session at CHI Health Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky seems to have locked itself in on the person to replace John Calipari as head coach of the men’s basketball team.

The Wildcats are targeting BYU coach Mark Pope.

Pete Thamel of ESPN reported on Thursday night that the two sides are close, saying “A deal is expected to come together in the near future.”

Thamel and Jeff Borzello also detailed Kentucky’s struggles to replace Calipari.

“Kentucky turned to Pope after several high-profile candidates either turned the job down or declared they didn’t have interest,” the two wrote on “Late Thursday morning, Baylor’s Scott Drew declined interest in the job after the school flew multiple family members to Lexington on a private plane to check out the area.”

Pope has strong ties to Kentucky. He played two seasons for the Wildcats after transferring from the University of Washington. Pope was a captain on Kentucky’s 1995-96 team, which went 34-2 and won a national championship, the team’s first since 1978.

His head coaching career began in the 2015-16 season at Utah Valley. Pope led the Wolverines to a 77-56 record over four seasons before taking the job as BYU’s head coach. In five years, Pope led the Cougars to a 187-108 record and two NCAA Tournament trips. Another trip would have been imminent as BYU finished the 2019-20 season ranked No. 14 in the country, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancelation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament.

Pope would be the first Kentucky alum to lead the program since Joe B. Hall, who served as head coach from 1972-1985 and led the Wildcats to the aforementioned 1978 championship.

[Pete Thamel on Twitter/X,]

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