Kentucky reportedly closing in on BYU coach Mark Pope to be the new basketball coach was met with doubt about how good the hire is. Photo Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports Feb 20, 2024; Provo, Utah, USA; Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope glances at the scoreboard during the second half of the game against the Baylor Bears at Marriott Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has reportedly found its new men’s basketball coach. And judging by the early responses, the Wildcats didn’t exactly hit a home run with this hire.

Reports emerged on Thursday night that Kentucky was close to hiring BYU coach Mark Pope.

There’s plenty to be excited about with Pope. He’s been a head coach for nine years, four at Utah Valley and five at BYU. In that time, he’s only suffered through one losing season and one .500 season — his first two seasons as a head coach. He has an overall record of 187-108. Furthermore, as a player, Pope was a captain on Kentucky’s 1995-96 team, which went 34-2, won a national championship and is regarded as one of the best teams in college basketball history.

Knowing his history, the hire was met with plenty of positive reactions.

On the other hand, while Calipari certainly had his issues in Kentucky, he was a Hall of Fame coach. He’s being replaced by a coach who has never won an NCAA Tournament game and has only one year of experience coaching a team in a Power 5 conference. Given that, as well as some of the names that the Wildcats were tied to, Pope being Kentucky’s reported target drew plenty of skepticism.

Splashy hires don’t always turn out to be great, just like under-the-radar hires aren’t always failures. Time will tell what kind of coach Kentucky will get with Pope. But he’s definitely got a lot of work ahead of him to quiet the doubters.

[Pete Thamel on Twitter/X]

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