The week began with the announcement that John Calipari was leaving the University of Kentucky to become the new head basketball coach at the University of Arkansas.

And then the ball was rolling. UK fans flooded social media with strongly-worded--and sometimes NSFW-worded--commentary about who should be the next coach to take over in Lexington. But one by one, all the top candidates Big Blue Nation was salivating over turned the Wildcats down. Alabama's Nate Oats, fresh off a Final Four; UConn's Dan Hurley, fresh off back-to-back national titles; and Baylor's Scott Drew with a 2021 national championship of his own--ALL of them said no. Oats even turned it down before he was asked.

BYU's Mark Pope Set to Become Next Kentucky Hoops Coach

So where did UK athletic director Mitch Barnhart turn? Provo UT and BYU head coach Mark Pope. Barnhart looked west but also looked around and brought a favorite son home. Coach Pope didn't begin his college career in Lexington, but he memorably finished it there.

As a forward on the 1995-96 Kentucky team that finished 34-2 and won the national championship, the team known as the Untouchables, Pope was part of what many consider one of the best college hoops teams of the last 50 years.

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Pope got his first head coaching job at Utah Valley State in 2015 then filled the vacancy at BYU in 2019. He's taken the Cougars to two NCAA Tournaments, in 2021 and 2024. In the 2023-2024 season, Pope and BYU pulled off a massive upset at Kansas.

Pope and his wife Lee Anne have four daughters. Fun fact...Lee Anne was once an assistant to David Letterman. Another fun fact...Mark Pope can rap:

The Mark Pope-to-Kentucky Timeline

CBS Sports' Matt Norlander has been following this story and offers a timeline of events leading up to the Mark Pope hire:

And for those wondering if Mark Pope--who admittedly wasn't on anyone's radar in the beginning--was a reflexive decision by Barnhart, there's this:

Some have wondered what coaches would be able to handle as passionate a fan base as Kentucky's is. If anyone gets it, it's a 1996 Untouchable.