Kentucky’s Mark Pope: Job is to ‘Win Banners’ in Final Four, National Championships

Kentucky’s Mark Pope: Job is to ‘Win Banners’ in Final Four, National Championships

OMAHA, NEBRASKA - MARCH 21: Head coach Mark Pope of the Brigham Young Cougars looks on during the game against the Duquesne Dukes in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CHI Health Center on March 21, 2024 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Kentucky men’s basketball head coach Mark Pope says he understands what is expected at him as he steps into the shoes of Hall of Famer John Calipari.

That’s to lead the Wildcats to wins not just in the NCAA Tournament but the SEC Tournament as well, Pope said during Sunday’s official introduction at Rupp Arena.

“I understand the assignment,” Pope said, per ESPN’s Myron Medcalf. “We are here to win banners. As we go through this journey, we’re here to win banners in Nashville, because you guys turn out in Nashville like nobody else and that matters. And our job here and our assignment is here to win banners in the Final Four, national championships. That’s our job.”

Dylan Ballard @DylanBallard_UK

Coach Pope says he isn’t lowering expectations…

He came to hang banners.

He also says that those Nashville banners matter as well. pic.twitter.com/2MaQMRfkLA

Kentucky last won the SEC Tournament in 2018.

The program most recently made it to the NCAA Tournament Final Four in 2015, and last claimed the national title in 2012.

Kentucky announced Pope’s hiring Friday. He joins the Wildcats on a five-year deal worth $5.5 million per season, according to Matt Norlander of CBS Sports.

Pope, who won the 1996 NCAA title with Kentucky, previously coached BYU for five seasons. The Cougars made the NCAA Tournament last season during their first campaign in the Big 12.

He will now replace Calipari, who is leaving the program for Arkansas after 15 seasons.

Calipari led the Wildcats to seven Elite Eight appearances, four Final Four bids and the 2012 NCAA title during his tenure, but had not made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament since 2019.

He said in a farewell post on X that Kentucky “probably needs to hear another voice” to make another championship run.

If the attendance at Sunday’s introduction is any indication, fans believe Pope could be that voice. The arena, which seats more than 20,000, had to turn away 5,000 fans from the press conference, according to On3’s Zack Geoghegan.

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