Big Blue Nation already knew Mark Pope as he was a member of the 1996 National Championship team, but today, he was introduced as the University of Kentucky’s next head basketball coach.

Pope and his teammates on the 1996 National Championship team came in on a bus as they did after winning the natty, and Pope was the last to come off the bus holding the trophy. The roar this brought from the crowd would have made you think the Wildcats hit a game-winner against Louisville.

The introductory press conference started with Mitch Barnhart giving some different folks thanks and then got the crowd fired up. After this, he let Coach Pope give his speech, and all of the Big Blue Nation was ready to run through a brick wall.

Pope started off by talking about his family, and time after time, he got the crowd on its feet. He talked about what he learned from playing at Kentucky and how he has used these lessons his entire life.

He then talked about how he plans to recruit using a mix of super-talented five-star players but also have some guys stick around and play for four years.


Kentucky signee Travis Perry was in attendance, and based on his reaction, it’s hard to think he is going anywhere.

is a one sentence introduction, the captain is now the coach. (Cheers). Please welcome the new head coach of your Kentucky wildcats, Mark Pope and UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart.


(Cheers – Go big blue! Go big blue! Go big blue! Go big blue!)

MITCH BARNHART: Wow. Truly amazing. Amazing. And thank you for every one of you coming out on a wonderful Sunday afternoon. Thank you so much. (Applause).


There are programs that don’t get this kind of crowd for five games. UK is here for a press conference, that is awesome. That is awesome.

A few thank you’s and a few comments. First off, thank you to the president, Dr. Capilouto, our Board of Trustees, our lettermen, who are right over here, they got off the bus over here with us and specifically the teammates of Mark Pope on the ’96 team.

Congratulations, one of your guys is back. (Cheers).

We’ve got several members of our head coaching staff over here, and we would like to thank them for coming to support Mark, that is awesome. (Applause)

We have members of the Rupp family here somewhere, I am not sure

where they are, they are right back here. Thank you for being here today. (Applause)

I would like to thank Mark and Ray for all of their help during this process, it is really good. Quickly, I will give Mark a jersey. We take these photo ops all of the time. I will finish my remarks and get him up here. Let’s do this real quick. (Applause)

There is an old song from the ’70s by Jefferson Starship, Find Your Way Back. I date myself. It is time for us to find our way back. (Cheers).

To do that, you need a guide, you have to have someone who has been on the journey before and knows the way, the work, the challenges and eventually the beauty of the destination. That’s right. To understand the heart of this special place, and we have such a person today, a letterman, check the box; we have a captain, check the box; (cheers); we have a champion, check the box; (cheers); we have got a guy that understands the professional game, check the box; we’ve got a scholar, I have never hired a Rhode Scholar candidate in my life, check the box. Most of all, we have an amazing husband, father and coach, check three boxes. (Cheers).

He will guide us back to our heart, through all of the changes in college sports, he understands the DNA that leads us to the destination. He says this changed the trajectory of his life. We’re excited for this, for him to do this for our program and our guys.

A couple more sentences and I’m out, because you didn’t come here to hear me. It is with great pleasure we welcome today the Pope family. Welcome, it is our honor you are here. (Applause)

And while I’m making introductions, I will introduce the new head basketball coach of the University of Kentucky, Mark Pope! (Cheers)

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