Mark Pope
Mark Pope, BYU, Kentucky, NCAA News

Kentucky Alum Mark Pope Replaces John Calipari With Wildcats

It's official — Mark Pope is the new basketball coach at Kentucky. He replaces John Calipari, who left for Arkansas.

Pope has been the head coach at BYU for the last five seasons, but most Wildcats fans know him as the captain of the 1996 national championship squad. He became the top candidate after several other high-profile candidates turned down the job or distanced themselves from the running.

"Mark Pope not only brings an impressive record in nine years as a head coach, but also a love of the University of Kentucky and a complete understanding of what our program means to the people of our state," Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said. "As a captain on the '96 championship team, Mark was a beloved and respected teammate. As a head coach, he is highly regarded nationally as an innovator. His teams run a unique and dynamic up-tempo offense, and they get after it on defense. He is a strong recruiter with international ties and a person of integrity.

"He fully embraces our high expectations and standards, and I know that as our fans get reacquainted with Mark, they will be eager to join him on what promises to be an exciting ride."

Sources told ESPN that Kentucky and Pope were finalizing a five-year contract.

Meanwhile, Calipari is leaving after 15 years, four Final Four appearances, and the national title in 2012.

"The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball. It's the definition of a blue-blood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year," Pope said. "Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this university and the people of the commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.

"I'm thankful to [Dr. Eli Capilouto, UK president] and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I'm proud to be your next head coach, and I can't wait to do this together!"

Pope took BYU to the NCAA tournament twice in his five seasons, finishing with a 110-52 overall record. They were eliminated by Duquesne in the first round this year. He coached Utah Valley State for four years before BYU.