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#pounditSunday, May 19, 2024

Rick Pitino has classy gesture for new Kentucky coach

Rick Pitino in a suit

Mar 21, 2023; New York, NY, USA; New St. John s head coach Rick Pitino speaks at his introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky announced on Friday that Mark Pope has been named the school’s new head basketball coach, and it would be hard to find someone who is more excited about the hire than Rick Pitino.

Pitino, who coached at Kentucky from 1989-1997, shared a video on social media Friday congratulating Pope — his former player — on landing the Wildcats job. Pitino mentioned how more high-profile names like Jay Wright, Dan Hurley and Billy Donovan were linked to Kentucky, but the 71-year-old believes Pope was the perfect candidate.

“The leader and captain of The Untouchables is coming home to lead the Wildcats,” Pitino said. “A lot of people out there talk about Jay Wright, Danny Hurley, Billy Donovan — they all had their trials and tribulations early on as well. But Mark Pope went into the Big 12 this year and beat Kansas at Kansas, beat Baylor at home, and in his first year got to the NCAA (Tournament). Mark Pope, offensively, no one does it better. … Mark Pope will go onto greatness, you can put it down.”

Pitino went on to call Pope “one of the premier young coaches in the game.” You can see the full video:

As Pitino mentioned, Pope was a captain on the 1995-96 Kentucky team that won a national championship. Pitino, who is now the head coach at St. John’s, obviously thinks very highly of his former player.

Pope was the head coach at BYU the last five seasons. He enjoyed success and led the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament twice. The 51-year-old was the head coach at Utah Valley for four seasons prior to that, so he has a good amount of experience and deep ties to Kentucky.

Kentucky may have tried to hire at least one other candidate before settling on Pope, but Pope has the endorsement of one of the best coaches in college basketball history.

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