Mark Pope will become the next head coach at BYU, according to multiple reports.
BYU's next basketball coach? Utah Valley's Mark Pope. https://t.co/xqwn53s60J— The Salt Lake Tribune (@sltrib) April 10, 2019
Pope has served in the same capacity for Utah Valley the past four seasons, where he compiled a 77-56 record and led the Wolverines to 23- and 25-win seasons, respectively, over the past two years. He served as an assistant to Dave Rose — who stepped down at BYU after 14 seasons — from 2011-2015.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, BYU interviewed “nearly a dozen candidates” before deciding on the 46-year old Pope. The former BYU assistant has lived a colorful basketball life, winning a national championship at Kentucky as a player, before playing six seasons in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets. He also served as an assistant at Georgia and Wake Forest before joining Rose’s staff in 2011.
He inherits a tradition-rich program that has sagged beneath its standards the past few seasons. Since joining the WCC in 2011, the Cougars have never finished lower than third, but have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2015. They went 19-13 (11-5) last season, the first time the program had failed to win at least 20 games in Rose’s long and successful tenure.
Pope will likely have a pair of proven senior guards to work with right away in T.J. Haws and Nick Emery. The Cougars do, however, lose star forward Yoeli Childs to the NBA daft.
At UVU, Pope found major success landing high major transfers. This included former BYU wing Jake Toolson, who took home the WAC POY award last year, as well as players from Xavier, Oklahoma, Utah and Oklahoma State. His first two teams played at break-neck speed, including the one that knocked off BYU in the Marriott Center in 2016, but then he showed an ability to adapt his style, as the Wolverines slowed things down considerably and won 20 or more games his final two seasons.
Ahead of the 2017-18 season, Pope talked to Mid-Major Madness about the benefits of playing in a state full of quality college basketball programs.
“Basketball in this state is really fun. Even though as a collective group we didn’t have a great year last year, basketball in this state is really good. We have six universities all with basketball programs, and though I think [Utah Valley has] moved quickly up the ranks, we probably have the least history,” he said. “It’s really a great opportunity for all the players in the summer, they’ve got six Division I programs here and they can get together and go at it, and they do. It’s a huge advantage. I think we have a great state for basketball and programs that are really growing.”
On UVU’s end, the Wolverines now look to find a replacement for a team that seems primed to contend in the WAC. Should all players return, UVU will feature the reigning WAC POY in Toolson, a quality frontcourt and impact transfers, including former Oklahoma State guard Brandon Averette.