Mark Pope Appreciates What John Calipari did at UK


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When Mark Pope played at Kentucky and was part of the 1996 national championship team I thought at times he was a bit of a goofball but also was one of the nicest young men I had been around.

I was convinced that Pope really didn’t have a mean bone in his body and somehow always saw the best in every situation.

That was almost 30 years ago and it’s no real surprise that Pope has not changed and he’s made that abundantly clear since becoming Kentucky’s new coach. He’s said and done all the right things — and that includes talking about former UK coach John Calipari.

While some UK fans are bitter towards Calipari, Pope is not. Instead, he appreciates many things Calipari did at UK, including winning the 2012 national championship.

Pope discussed what relationship with Calipari during an interview with CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein on “College Hoops Today” this week.

“I’ll forever be grateful to coach Cal,” Pope told Rothstein. “I’ll be grateful for what he did at my alma mater at the University of Kentucky. There’s no reason for my heart not to be full of gratitude to him. He’s also one of the greatest coaches to ever coach in college basketball.”

Pope remembers Calipari coaching at UMass when he played at Kentucky. The Cats played UMass twice during the 1996 national championship season.

“When I was playing here, he was the head coach at UMass. We had an unbelievable rivalry,” Pope told Rothstein. “He had a group with Marcus Camby, (Carmelo) Travieso, and that group in the backcourt. We got to play each other in the Final Four.”

Pope said Calipari had always been “generous” to him and that’s why I am sure Pope will do everything possible to help assure that Calipari gets a warm welcome when he brings Arkansas to Rupp Arena to play next season.

“For him to be in this league is great for basketball. It’s going to be great for Arkansas fans and certainly great for Big Blue Nation,” Pope said. “It’s going to be a battle. It is going to have some things become super personal.

“It’s one thing competing against somebody that you don’t know. It’s another thing competing against your brother. If you’ve done that in the backyard, it usually gets ugly because you love each other so much. I anticipate there’ll be some of that flavor in this with Coach Cal, for sure.”

Pope understands what Calipari has accomplished during his Hall of Fame career.

“What he has done for college basketball as a whole and what he has done specifically for Kentucky basketball? I couldn’t appreciate it any more,” Pope said.

18 Responses

  1. Mark is trying to be politically correct in his comments. Calipari single handedly ran our basketball program into the ground and then ran off to Fayetteville like a scalded dog. That did get rid of him though, so I guess we can appreciate that. I am glad we now have a Kentucky alum who played on a Kentucky championship team as our coach who is putting Kentucky first in everything that he does.

    1. Exactly. He should have stuck to his word and left after 10 seasons then he could have left the program with his head held high. Now he looks like he ran away from a situation he created. Hes really a NBA coach trapped in a college basketball body lol. He should have taken the Lakers job in 2020. It would have been right up his alley. He could have put the towel under Lebrons knee when he kneeled during the national athem.

  2. You 2 covered all the bases. Pope is being careful not to upset any BBN fans who are still weeping over the fraud running like a thief after stealing a lot of years of UK BB when UK should have been in the E8, FF & some Titles.

    1 win in the Big Dance in 4 years with one of the top recruiting classes every year is proof he is NOT a real coach but a FRAUD DELUXE

  3. Pope is a honorable man. He understands that in his 9 year coaching career he’s won nothing. I believe he will. I just don’t know when. There could be a lot of weeping by the Cal haters. I hope he can win with all the transfers the bbn has cried for. It would be a shame for teams full of one -n- dones to embarrass the Cats.

    1. I doubt it very seriously that he all of a sudden learns how to win with freshman again. Big Z Thiero and now a possibly Wagner are going to try to save his a** but its not going to work. Its a shame because Big Z and Thiero were my 2 favorite players on last years team. Out of everybody on last years team I really thought Thiero was trying to get away from calapari.,but Cal giving him 720,000$ I would have followed him for 6 months too

      1. 720K explains it all. I also really liked Big Z & Thiero as well as Burks as my favorites I wanted to see on the floor with Reed Sheppard. Dillingham would have been the 5th player (with Reeves as a backup) to put the hardest working 5 players on the floor, with UGO sharing minutes with Big Z.

        Some in the BBN will always be under the influence of fraud-con-aid and savor the after-taste of fraud fr years to come. They are beat ignored.

        1. I’m pulling for Pope and the Cats 100%. However if Arkansas comes in and embarrasses the Cats, I will not let the crybabies forget it.

          1. As much as I love Ky, I think I’ll take that bet. Who’s gonna hold the money? Cash Money. Larry V?

      2. Evidently Pope didn’t want Thiero. All I heard about was how much NIL was pledged after Cal left. I would say Thiero is as good or better than anyone currently on the Cats. I would like to know how much has been spent on this roster. I would say more than on last year’s team since Cal supposedly couldn’t get NIL money. Kids care about money not the name on the front of the jersey (see Reed Sheppards decision).

  4. Just remember only one coach that has won more than one title as UK coach that’s Adolph Rupp and two coaches that didn’t win it at all. History isn’t good on our side.

  5. Almonor, a 6’7", 219 stretch 4 has become the 11th member of Pope’s first team. He shot 39% from 3 on 7.4 attempts per game. It’s my understanding that he has agreed to play a backup role to Carr. He has 2 remaining years of eligibility. This will be a team made up mostly of 4 year players, so that will mean limited minutes to the incoming freshmen. It looks like we will sign the Robinson kid from BYU as a one year player at the 3 spot. If so, Lanier probably goes somewhere else.

    With the addition of Robinson and/or Lanier, Pope will have a contender on both the SEC and NCAA level, if he can get them to play together as a team. Most programs that go through a coaching change usually see a single digit win total the first year. I think this team will be the surprise of the 2024/25 season. It could be a very good year for BBN.

    Most of these kids will be gone after this season. Garrison should be back at the 5, Almonor at the 4, and Oweh at the 3. That means Perry and Chandler will be the favorites to start at the 1 and 2 spots, and Noah will see significant PT at the 3 spot…if they don’t get discouraged and leave in 2025. Signing Moore and Johnson in 2025 and a couple of key pieces from the portal will have us looking good in year 2 of Pope’s tenure.

    79, I think the future looks bright for us. What a role reversal…me being Mr. Positive and you being the Doubting Thomas, LOL!

    1. Teams that go through a coaching change does NOT usually see single digit wins the first year. Tubby won a Championship his first year. All the players didn’t bolt after he was hired. Why did Not One Single player stay? Remember this is Kentucky. No excuses!

      1. With NIL and the open portal, it’s rare for a new coach to come into a solid team like Tubby did. Mark has put together a solid staff and a decent team. If he signs the Vinson kid from Oak Hill next week, we will be a title contender barring any injuries.

  6. How can anyone not love Mark Pope?

    Mark Pope has made no ifs, ands, or buts about the task at hand as the head coach at Kentucky. It is a focus that he has maintained from his opening press conference to now and will continue to do until he accomplishes it. Pope discussed his goal with the Wildcats during an appearance on ‘College Hoops Today’ with Jon Rothstein this week. He kept on with his aspiration to win national titles for Kentucky in order to best represent their program and fanbase during his tenure. “Like, I do believe that the most satisfying thing, the thing that’s required here and is more important than anything else is representing Big Blue Nation and hanging banners,” said Pope. “That’s what we’ve been called to do.”

    Did we EVER hear anything like that from the FRAUD? HELL NO!!! Kentucky basketball is in good hands again…finally! Go CATS!!!

  7. The Vinson kid from Oak Hill Academy is visiting on Monday. He is 6’10", 210. He can do it all! Voracious shot blocker, rebounder, put backs, finishes alley oops, can drive to the basket, post up, has a mid range shot and shoots the 3 at a high clip and is a capable passer. Sign him and let him back up Carr at the 4 and let Almonor play the 3. He really would fill the biggest void we have and put us at 12. Give the 13th scholarship to the 6’8" kid from Bowling Green.

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