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Apr 15, 2024
11:34:33am
lbmango All-American
After a few days of getting over the shock of Pope leaving, my thoughts...
1. After reading a couple of articles from the Lexington press about the hiring of Pope and the introduction ceremony (aka press conference), it's clear his heart was always in Kentucky. If/when the opportunity presented itself, he was always going to go after it with everything he's got. It's his alma mater. It's where he won a national title. It's clear the experiences he had there as a player were foundational for him in many ways. From a basketball perspective, for Pope, Lexington is home. It shouldn't be surprising to any of us that he took the opportunity with excitement and happiness when it was offered.

2. Although the chance to return to Lexington as the HC was probably always something in the back of his mind, I think it's realistic to think he knew that opportunity wouldn't likely come soon, if it ever came at all. He most likely thought that his best chance at ever having that opportunity was to excel as the HC at a place like BYU. If he could do big things there, then he might be a candidate for Kentucky if and when an opening there ever came. So, he threw himself into the BYU job. Building a strong program was his only chance. And if that opportunity never came, he would at least have a great program at BYU to lead.

3. Calipari leaving Kentucky was a big surprise. All of Kentucky's top candidates all turned down the opportunity pretty quickly. Things changed very quickly from it's unlikely Pope would have any shot at the HC at Kentucky anytime soon to everything aligned for Pope in a very surprising, fast way. It was totally unexpected by fans, and probably by Pope himself. Given those circumstances it was almost like he was supposed to get the job.

4. This whole situation kind of reminds me of BYU's 1984 national championship in football. So many unlikely things had to happen for BYU to be in position to claim the title. But they all occurred, and BYU was the champion. Many felt that BYU wasn't the best team, but they were the champions. Similarly, many unlikely things had to happen for this opportunity to be presented to Pope. And they all occurred. Many felt he wasn't the most qualified for the job, but he was the one hired.

5. My biggest frustration stems from the fact that I have felt like things were set up for a really good year for BYU basketball next year. Now everything is up in the air. We want to blame Pope, because if he had stayed, most, if not all, of that would still be in place. But there's no way Pope could turn down an opportunity of a lifetime. We shouldn't blame him. We're just the victims of circumstance. Pope did his best for BYU while he was here. Sure, many of us would have liked him to stay for decades, but he jumped to his dream job when it was offered. Perhaps many of us naively felt that BYU was a destination school (especially for church members) and that a coach would never leave in this manner. We were wrong.

6. My remaining frustration is what will happen with current BYU players and coaches, how quickly a new coach can be hired, and whether he can settle the waters and get the program headed in a positive direction quickly.

7. I harbor no ill will against Pope (although I'll be frustrated if he poaches a couple of players). I actually hope he'll be successful at Kentucky. Yes, I wish he would have said some sort of meaningful goodbye, but I won't hold that against him.

8. I'll continue to be an "all in" BYU fan, although NIL and the portal make that increasingly difficult. I'll fully support whatever new coach is hired, and whatever players end up representing BYU next season and beyond. I still believe the future is bright for BYU basketball. I have faith.

Go Cougars!
lbmango
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lbmango
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