4-Point Play: Mark Pope goes on a local TV tour

This weekend is a busy one for Mark Pope and the Kentucky Wildcats. It starts with Father/Son Camp from Friday to Saturday, followed by Father/Daughter Camp on Sunday – a new Father’s Day tradition in Lexington. Right between these two events is the Club Blue NEW ERA men’s basketball event early Saturday afternoon, the first meet-and-greet for fans to hang out with Pope, his coaching staff and the entire 2024-2025 roster.

But before the chaos, Pope went on a miniature media tour with local TV stations in Lexington and Louisville, where he shared his thoughts on his first few months on the job and what will happen in his first year with the Wildcats.

How about some highlights from each performance with WHAS, WDRB, LEX18 and FOX56? Today’s 4-Point Play coming soon.

The importance of the rivalry in Louisville

As a former national championship player and team captain of the Wildcats, Pope must have a deep hatred in his bones for Pat Kelsey and the Louisville basketball program, right?

Well, not exactly. That’s not to say he doesn’t want to beat the Cardinals or plans to take it easy, but he does like Kelsey and is certainly a fan of Aly Khalifa and Noah Waterman, two BYU transfers who signed with Louisville.

“I love Pat, man. I actually love him. He is a hardworking man who is busy 24/7. I actually love him, and I have a lot of respect for him. That’s the beauty of this Kentucky-Louisville deal, and it has some players I like very much. Pope told Kent Spencer about WHAS 11. “These are two guys who I have seen sacrifice, grow and commit in a brilliant way. I love all that dynamic because that’s what Kentucky-Louisville is supposed to be.

He values ​​the rivalry and wants both teams to be great so the matchups are epic, like two brothers throwing haymakers in the backyard.

“Kentucky-Louisville is one brawl, it’s like brothers going into the backyard and chasing after it. I love everything about it,” he said. “I want Louisville to be great because that’s what makes this rivalry great.”

Taking the best job in basketball

Pope is grateful for his start at Utah Valley and the opportunity to coach basketball at a high level for the first time at BYU in the Big 12. However, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had his eye on the Kentucky job from the start. minute he decided to leave medical school to work in coaching.

This is the ultimate prize, one he never thought he would actually win.

“Yeah, I mean, Kentucky is the track. This is actually the pinnacle of coaching at any level. But you don’t think it’s going to happen. You won’t get this chance. No one gets this chance. No one should coach Kentucky,” Pope told WDRB’s Tyler Greever. “And so it’s kind of like the definition of coaching. Think about it: the best job in all of basketball is coaching Kentucky.

“And then you kind of go out and you think about all the great jobs that are coming next, and then mid-market jobs. But you just don’t think you’re going to get the chance to do the best work ever.”

Jaxson Robinson is among the “most dangerous offensive players” in the country

What did it mean to land his star transfer from BYU, with Robinson ultimately deciding to withdraw his name from the draft and sign with Kentucky?

“Really special and really important,” Pope told BBN Tonight’s Maggie Davis. “Jaxson would have been drafted this year. He was clearly in the draft (range), he just didn’t know exactly where he would be called up. But he has proven himself to be the player he is. He’s been with me for two years, we’ve had a real growth cycle at BYU. He knows us.”

On the floor, he is a clear star talent, someone capable of raising this team’s ceiling to new heights. What separates this version from others, however, is the familiarity aspect and the fact that Robinson is guaranteed to fit in with the system. There is no risk associated with BYU transferring from Provo. At the very least, you know exactly what he will bring to the table as a player.

“He’s important for a lot of reasons,” Pope added. “First of all, he is a great player and a professional. Second, he is one of the most dangerous offensive players in college basketball, it has been proven. Three, because he has the potential to be an elite-level defensive presence on the field. And four: the most important thing for me and maybe for our team and our locker room is that he knows me. He knows how we play, the only guy on this roster who has actually played the kind of unique and challenging style of play that we do. He will be a great advocate and interpreter of what we do and how we do it.

Pope admits he’s a bit selfish with this decision, knowing this is what he wanted from day one. He gets to coach his star wing for a third and final season of college basketball – it doesn’t get much better than that.

“For all these reasons it is very important that he is on this roster,” he said. “And for me personally, the fact that I get a third year to see his growth continue. Really selfish, I find that exciting.”

Love for Coach Cal

What About the Elephant (or Razorback) in the Room? Pope wants to make it clear that he loves John Calipari and what he did for his alma mater coaching in Lexington for 15 seasons. And he believes fans do and will continue to do this in the future.

“I know exactly how Big Blue Nation feels about Cal. We love him,” he told FOX56’s Michael Epps. “When you think about his tenure here, what he accomplished during his tenure here is extraordinary. Like every coach that came before him, Tubby (Smith) in his own way, Coach (Rick) Pitino for sure, Joe B. (Hall), if you go down the list, each of those coaches had a hand in redirecting the flow and trend of college basketball as a whole. Sure, Cal did that.”