New BYU assistant men’s basketball coach Mark Pope sat down with the local sports media for the first time Friday at the Marriott Center to answer questions and talk about his role with the basketball team.
Pope said he is honored to now be coaching at BYU.
“I had to beg [BYU head] coach [Dave] Rose. I begged and pleaded day after day after day,” Pope said. “Finally he said, ‘Alright, I’ll talk to you.’ I think he just got sick of me, so he let me come. This is an unbelievable opportunity to work for him and be at this school.”
Pope iås LDS and was part of the 1996 NCAA championship Kentucky team. When asked why he didn’t come to BYU, Pope said it just wasn’t in the cards at that time in his life.
“It’s [BYU] a special program and a special staff and a great group of kids,” Pope said. “It has become more and more apparent to me, being a coach in college at a couple of different places, how unique and special this place is.”
After playing for Kentucky as a 6-foot-10 post player, Pope played 10 years in the NBA before retiring. He has since coached at Georgia and most recently was an assistant coach at Wake Forest.
When asked how he heard about the opening at BYU, Pope said, “Being an LDS guy in the sport, you are always watching BYU.”
Pope is filling the vacancy left by Dave Rice, who took the head coaching position at UNLV.
Pope said he does not want to be labeled as a post position coach or an offensive coach; he said he just wants to coach these young men and help them be all they can be.
The day after he was hired, Pope called and spoke individually with each player on the team.
“I don’t know these guys too well yet, but I am already impressed with their maturity,” Pope said.