In Mark Pope’s debut season as BYU’s head basketball coach, the Cougars overachieved and returned to national prominence.

So it’s not surprising that the school is planning to keeping Pope around for a long time to come. 

On the eve of the Cougars’ 2020-21 season opener, athletic director Tom Holmoe announced Tuesday night that the school has extended Pope’s contract through the 2026-27 season. 

Pope deferred increased compensation in the new contract into future years in an effort to assist the athletic department with budget concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It’s such a gift to be able to coach here. There are so many reasons why. It certainly starts with the people you get to work for,” Pope said on his coach’s show on BYUtv shortly after the announcement was made. 

Pope said BYU President Kevin J. Worthen, athletic director Tom Holmoe and other leaders’ work during the pandemic “has been inspiring. I’m so blessed to work here and work for them and be a part of this great university. I could not be more excited.”

Contract extension discussions began at the end of last season, Pope said. 

“We had some conversations on both sides. On my end, Tom asked the question a few days ago to all of Cougar Nation, ‘Who’s all in?’” Pope said. “Lee Anne (Pope’s wife) and I were like, ‘We are all in.’ We couldn’t be more grateful.”

In his first year at the helm, Pope guided the Cougars to a 24-8 record and a No. 18 final national ranking. BYU was projected as a single-digit seed in the NCAA Tournament before it was canceled due to the global pandemic.

Pope’s 24 wins marked the most wins for a first-year coach in BYU basketball history. He led the team to a win over No. 2 Gonzaga in the Marriott Center, the highest-ranked team the Cougars have defeated in the Marriott Center’s history. BYU landed in the national rankings for the first time since 2010-11, jumping as high as No. 14.

During the offseason, Pope enhanced his reputation as a recruiter, signing several talented players, including 7-foot-3 Purdue grad transfer Matt Haarms, who also considered Kentucky and Texas Tech.

“Mark is a proven leader and a builder of strong teams that will continue to represent BYU well,” Holmoe said in a statement. “His unique abilities to recruit, develop and refine are the attributes any school would love for their coaches to possess, and we are so glad to have him here.”

The Cougars are scheduled to tip off the season Wednesday (6 p.m., MST) against Westminster, followed by games against New Orleans Thursday and against Utah Valley Saturday. All three games will be played at the Marriott Center without fans and will be televised on BYUtv. 

Pope is looking forward to starting his second season at the helm. 

“I love BYU, I love what this university stands for, I love Cougar Nation, and I love this team,” Pope said in a statement. “I have never had an experience in my basketball career quite like last season. What we were able to accomplish, considering the circumstances we found ourselves in, was remarkable, and there’s so much more to come. This is a program where we can win, and win big. Lee Anne and I are filled with gratitude to announce this contract extension, and we’re just getting started.”

Last season, Pope was named the USBWA District VIII Coach of the Year and he was a semifinalist for the Naismith Men’s Coach of the Year. 

Pope coached three All-WCC First Team honorees — Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws and Jake Toolson — and led the Cougars to national rankings of No. 1 in 3-point field goal percentage, No. 2 in assist/turnover ratio, No. 3 in field-goal percentage, No. 4 in 3-point field goals per game and No. 5 in assists per game.

Pope is the 19th head men’s basketball coach in BYU history, dating back to the inaugural season in 1902-03.