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‘Like a Mormon Bill Walton’: BYU head coach Mark Pope gets plenty of praise in new Sports Illustrated feature

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BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope poses in the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, May 23, 2019.

BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope in the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, May 23, 2019.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

In a feature from veteran sportswriter Pat Forde, BYU basketball head coach Mark Pope is getting a lot of praise.

The article appears in Sports Illustrated and chronicles Pope’s transition from being an NBA player — Pope played six seasons in the NBA for the Pacers, Bucks and Nuggets — to his first coaching gig, his time at UVU and now as the coach of the Cougars.

The article features plenty of compliments to the first-year BYU coach, including a comparison to Bill Walton.

He has a fun playing style, but Pope’s personality is the real selling point. The 47-year-old is something of a human Labrador retriever, a 6-foot-10 tower of over-the-top enthusiasm. His tail is always wagging.

He’s got this great spirit, (Cal basketball coach Mark) Fox said. He has a very positive outlook.

I mentioned to Fox that Pope seems a bit like a Mormon Bill Walton — everything in his world is wonderful, all the time. Fox hesitated a second, then concurred, adding, My guess is that if they both ended up in confession, Mark would have less to talk about.

Forde also writes that Pope could be the coach who finally leads BYU to the Final Four for the first time in school history.

The final frontier for BYU is the Final Four. The Cougars are 20th in all-time men’s basketball victories, and the 19 in front of them all have made at least one Final Four. They have made the most NCAA tournament appearances (29) without playing on the last weekend.

Mark Pope could be the guy who leads BYU there. That drive from New York to Georgia for a career change was the start of something big, and all signs are that it will continue to get bigger.

You can read the full article here.