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Kentucky inks BYU's Pope to reported 5-year contract

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Kentucky has hired Mark Pope as their next head coach, Wildcats athletics director Mitch Barnhart announced Friday.

Kentucky's offer to the ex-BYU bench boss reportedly consisted of an average annual salary of $5.5 million over a five-year term, according to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports.

"Mark Pope not only brings an impressive record in nine years as a head coach, but also a love of the University of Kentucky and a complete understanding of what our program means to the people of our state," Barnhart said in a statement.

"As a captain on the '96 championship team, Mark was a beloved and respected teammate. As a head coach, he is highly regarded nationally as an innovator. His teams run a unique and dynamic up-tempo offense and they get after it on defense. He is a strong recruiter with international ties and a person of integrity."

Pope will replace stalwart John Calipari, who left Kentucky after 15 seasons to become the next head coach at SEC rival Arkansas. The Wildcats were ousted in the opening round of March Madness by No. 14 seed Oakland.

Pope is returning to Kentucky as an alumni. The forward was a member of the 1996 NCAA championship team and played two seasons with the school.

The 51-year-old had spent the last five seasons as the head coach at BYU, going 110-52 and helping the Cougars reach March Madness in 2021 and 2024. In BYU's first season in the Big 12, Pope helped guide the team to a 23-11 record.

He has yet to win a game in March Madness, as the No. 6 Cougars lost to No. 11 Duquesne this past season. In 2021, No. 6 BYU was upset by No. 11 UCLA.

Prior to his time with the Cougars, Pope spent five seasons at Utah Valley.

Pope will have big shoes to fill, as Calipari led the Wildcats to a 410-123 record, a national championship in 2012, and four Final Four appearances.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew reportedly passed on the position earlier Thursday. He reaffirmed his commitment to the Bears, saying, "We truly believe God has called my family and I to continue our work here at Baylor."

Kentucky made contact with current Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan, but the former NCAA title-winning coach with Florida decided not to pursue the opening, The Athletic's Kyle Tucker reports.

Meanwhile, the program didn't contact St. John's bench boss Rick Pitino about the job, sources told Norlander.

Various head coaches declined interest in the job before Calipari left, including Alabama's Nate Oats, UConn's Dan Hurley, and retired Villanova bench boss Jay Wright.

Calipari joined Arkansas after ex-Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman left for the USC job earlier in April.

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