Could a job have opened up that would lure Mark Pope from BYU?

Since becoming the head coach of the Cougars in 2019, Pope has frequently been mentioned as a possible candidate for open coaching positions across men’s college basketball.

It has happened every year. And it makes sense, as Pope has ties to multiple major programs — Washington and Kentucky, specifically — and is 87-41 in four years in Provo, a record that includes a 50-10 mark at the Marriott Center.

Throw in BYU’s success this season, its first in the vaunted Big 12 Conference, and it isn’t a surprise that Pope would be mentioned for major job openings.

One such job opened Wednesday morning, when Louisville announced that it had fired Kenny Payne.

Said Louisville athletic director Josh Heird in a statement: “Kenny has given a great deal to this university over a span of nearly 40 years, and he will always be a valued member of our Louisville family. When we brought Kenny home in 2022, no one had a stronger belief than me in his potential success, but it’s become clear that a change is needed to help this program achieve what is expected and attainable. While it is always difficult to make a coaching transition, this is the right one for our program. On behalf of myself and everyone involved with our men’s basketball program, I want to thank Kenny for his dedication to UofL. I wish him and his family the very best in their future.”

An official released from the university noted that “a national search for Louisville’s next head coach will begin immediately.”

That’s where Pope comes in. A former player at the University of Kentucky, Pope has ties to the state.

And per ESPN’s Jeff Borzello, he should be considered a legitimate candidate for the Cardinals’ job.

“Would Pope go to the biggest rival of his alma mater?” Borzello asks. “The former Kentucky star has had success as a head coach at Utah Valley and BYU and has the Cougars nationally ranked and heading to the NCAA tournament in their first season in the Big 12.”

Borzello has Pope listed among more than a dozen possible candidates, including notable names like Baylor’s Scott Drew, Kansas State’s Jerome Tang, South Carolina’s Lamont Paris, Alabama’s Nate Oats and UCLA’s Mick Cronin.

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The Louisville job is that kind of a gig, Borzello writes. One that could appeal to the best of the best.

“From a historical perspective, Louisville is a top-10 all-time program in men’s college basketball. The Cardinals have won three national championships (most recently in 2013 — which was later vacated by the NCAA). They’ve been to 10 Final Fours and still rank in the top 10 all time in NCAA tournament wins, even with the vacated victories. There’s a history of winning at Louisville under multiple coaches. It has top-tier facilities, plenty of resources and an engaged fan base that has become apathetic over the past couple of years. The next coach will be required to bring the fans back to the KFC Yum! Center. The cloud of uncertainty from the multiple NCAA investigations into the program is also gone, leaving the next coach with a fresh slate moving forward.

“As far as drawbacks, the region isn’t really an ACC hotbed for recruiting, and Kentucky is still king in the state. And this job is going to be a complete rebuild. Louisville’s last NCAA tournament appearance was in 2019, and it has been arguably the worst high-major team in the country the past two seasons.”

Would Pope take on that big of a rebuilding job, especially in light of the Cougars’ successful transition to the Big 12? Time will tell, but Louisville is the type of job opening that could lure any number of notable coaches from their current jobs.

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