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Kentucky nearing deal with Mark Pope to replace John Calipari, per reports

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Kentucky nearing deal with Mark Pope to replace John Calipari, per reports

Kentucky’s search for a head men’s basketball coach has reportedly taken the school to Utah. Provo, to be more accurate.

But it is a journey that will result in a homecoming.

According to multiple reports, Kentucky is nearing an agreement with Mark Pope to be their next men’s basketball coach. Pope would replace John Calipari, who announced earlier this week that he was stepping away from a program that in his words, needed a new voice.

Calipari was introduced as the next coach at Arkansas on Wednesday.

Matt Norlander of CBS Sports was among the first to share the news, with this post on social media Thursday night:

Breaking news: Kentucky has lined up BYU's Mark Pope to be its next coach, sources tell @CBSSports. Nothing is signed at this hour but the sides are quickly working toward a deal and hope to get it done by the end of the night.— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander)

ESPN college football writer Pete Thamel also reported on the impending deal.

Norlander’s reporting also included some intriguing context. According to the CBS Sports insider, Kentucky “did not aggressively pursue Billy Donovan at any point over the past four days.” In addition, Norlander was informed that “there was no contact with Rick Pitino.”

Pope took over at BYU in April of 2019, and in his first season leading the Cougars he guided the team to a 24-8 record, the best for a first-year coach in school history. BYU looked in line for a bid to the NCAA Tournament that season, but the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.

BYU recorded winning seasons in each of Pope’s years on campus, including a 23-11 record last year, which was the school’s first season in the Big 12. BYU lost in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament, and entered the NCAA Tournament as an at-large seed, seeded sixth in the East Region. The Cougars were knocked out in their opening-round game by Duquesne.

As noted above, this is a homecoming for Pope, who transferred to Kentucky after starting his college basketball days at Washington, where he was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in 1992. After sitting out a season due to eligibility rules, Pope appeared in every game for Kentucky over his final two years on campus, helping the team win a national title in 1996.

Under Rick Pitino.

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