‘Here to win banners,’ Pope fires up crowd at Rupp

  • Myron Medcalf, ESPN Personnel WriterApr 14, 2024, 07:17 PM ET


    • Covers college basketball
    • Joined ESPN.com in 2011
    • Graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato

Days after John Calipari left town, Mark Pope based on a podium in front of a sold-out crowd at Rupp Arena on Sunday.During his main

introduction, Kentucky’s brand-new coach, who signed a five-year deal for $5.5 million per season, stated he’s aware of the expectations around the program.”I comprehend the task,”Pope stated.”We are here to win banners. As we go through this journey, we’re here to win banners in Nashville [at the SEC competition] since you guys end up in Nashville like no one else and that matters. And our job here and our project is here to win banners in the Final 4, national championships. That’s our job.”Pope’s arrival marked the latest action in an unexpected sequence of occasions that has changed the SEC and men’s college basketball. 3 days back, Calipari was presented as the head coach at Arkansas following a 15-year period that included the 2012 national title. Calipari chose to leave the Wildcats after a series of lackluster postseason surfaces and speculation about his future.Kentucky, commonly thought about among the top jobs in the sport, had actually apparently pursued elite prospects, such as UConn’s Dan Hurley, Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan, Baylor’s Scott Drew and Alabama head coach Nate Oats. After the school failed to land some of its most desired prospects, Pope– a member of Kentucky’s 1996 nationwide title group– emerged as athletic director Mitch Barnhart’s pick.Pope, who has actually formerly coached at both Utah Valley and BYU, informed the thousands who collected for a press conference Sunday that the leaders at his previous stops always comprehended his passion for Kentucky, where he averaged 7.9 PPG and 5.7 RPG from 1994 to 1996 following his transfer from Washington. He then played 6 years in the NBA.”They understand my heart bleeds blue Kentucky, “Pope stated.” And [Barnhart] understood that. Maybe, he was a little careful calling me due to the fact that he understood

I was going to say,’Yes,’before he ever ended up the concern. “Editor’s Picks 2 Associated There were fans outside Rupp Arena hours prior to Sunday’s intro, a rapid turn-around for a fan base that seemed at first doubtful of the hire before accepting the relocation. Pope prospers a coach who had actually stopped working to reach the 2nd weekend of the NCAA competition since 2019 and had actually suffered two first-round exits over the past 3 years.Before he spoke, Pope held the 1996 championship game trophy as he walked onto the court in a bus that featured former players, consisting of members of the 1996 nationwide title group. He then handed the prize to Derek Anderson, who was among the stars of that champion squad.The 6-foot-10 former center stated he didn’t need to persuade his household to make the move to Lexington. His partner and four daughters were all helpful, he stated, once it was clear Kentucky had made him the focus of its search.Pope has collected a 187-108 record in his coaching career but he has actually not won a conference title, a conference competition champion or an NCAA competition game. Under Calipari, Kentucky regularly attracted first-round picks. Pope said he is currently recruiting the players on the current team, members of Calipari’s recruiting class who’ve decommitted and players in the transfer portal as he assembles his very first lineup. “We’re going to find guys that fit here, the method we play and comprehend what a present it is to play at the University of Kentucky, “he said.At one point, Pope stated coaches are” shepherds” and the camera panned towards previous Kentucky star Jeff Sheppard, Pope’s college roomie and the dad of Reed Sheppard, the Kentucky standout and NBA prospect. However he didn’t discuss him directly.Still, Pope said he only wants players at Kentucky who will respect the program’s history

and master his system. In 2015, more than 50%of BYU’s shots were 3-point efforts, and the Cougars were also top-60 in adjusted defensive effectiveness.”At BYU, we had the second-most 3-pointers in college basketball,”Pope stated. “But at Kentucky, we do not come in second

. My team in 2015 had the fourth-most helps in the nation and at Kentucky, we share whatever. We’re going to be absurdly aggressive on offense. We’re going to change it up and keep people on their heels on defense.”Towards completion of the occasion, Pope stated he welcomed the lofty requirements due to the fact that he knew they wouldn’t alter, even though he’s not as knowledgeable as a few of the leading coaches who’ve come before him at Kentucky.Pope said he’ll turn to his coaches, such as St. John’s head coach Rick Pitino who led Kentucky’s 1996 nationwide title team, as he browses the difficulties ahead while he attempts to fulfill the high requirements of a school that has eight national championships.”We’re not ducking it, “he stated”That is the assignment.”

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