Mark Pope was officially announced as the next head coach of BYU Basketball at a Wednesday afternoon press conference. Pope spent several minutes addressing media before taking questions. As most knew already, Pope is an excellent public speaker and said all of the right things to get BYU fans excited, and then some.
The press conference started with BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe welcoming the Pope family home (Mark, his wife Lee Anne, and their four daughters) before inviting Pope up to the microphone.
Pope began with some prepared remarks, joking that it would be harder to become CIA than it is to become BYU’s coach. Then he got serious saying, “[BYU] is like nowhere else. It is a beacon on a hill. There is a standard of excellence here and incredibly high expectations and that is one of the most enticing things to me about taking this position.”
Pope shared that his first meeting with Tom Holmoe and Assistant Athletic Director Brian Santiago took place right on the Marriott Center court — he stated that they originally thought to be more discreet, but quickly realized that the media was so on top of things that the need for secrecy was pretty much moot.
Pope gave credit to all of the coaches he’s been mentored under, starting with his high school coach, mentioning Mark Fox, George Karl, Rick Pitino, and ending with Dave Rose. Pope said he “begged” Dave Rose for the opportunity to coach with him, saying that Rose is a legendary coach who has set the bar so high that it “tantalizes all of us to see if we can jump over it.” Later on in the press conference, Pope shared that he spoke with Rose at the Final Four, calling him “a great mentor and friend.”
Pope spoke to the fact that there were many available jobs in the college coaching world, and that he had many conversations, but when he ultimately made the decision to come to BYU, it came down to this distinct thought he had: “Of all these places, where do you want to win the most? Where do you want to win, and it will mean the most on every level? There is no doubt in my mind that it is here. This is a special place to come win and win big,” he told media.
He ended his remarks by saying this of his head coaching approach at BYU.
“We will be wholehearted in everything we do. We will be relentless every minute, every day, 24/7, chasing excellence on this team, and we will be together. My deal is think about what you think we can’t do as a program... Think about it, let me know, and that’s what we’re gonna go get done.”
Later in the press conference, Pope spoke to the fact that he is extremely relentless as a coach, and will keep knocking doors over and over again. He shared that part of his coaching philosophy is to use those relentless tendencies of his to teach simple principles, until they become habits for the players.
Question and Answer:
After that, Pope took several questions from the media. The first of which was about his assistants. Pope did not name any names but did say he was already “pretty far down the road,” with his staff.
When Pope was asked what he learned from his gig at Utah Valley University, he said “everything,” since that was his first head coaching job, but went on to focus on these tenants: “Schedule aggressively, be fearless, take our lumps, go with confidence to the next level.” He continued on, saying that he doesn’t want the team to be afraid of failure but afraid of not growing instead.
When he was asked about his approach to recruiting, Pope talked about being brutally honest with players, saying that 100 percent transparency has been and will continue to be his approach — even with the current members of the BYU team.
Pope said he met with the BYU team before his press conference and that his first job will be recruiting them. He then spoke about how he thinks he can buck college basketball’s current trend, and put together a team that comes in together as freshmen and stays and fights together for four years.
He said, “We’ll try that, and we’ll try everything else.” He said that BYU’s staff will “cast a really, really big net” but that he is “incredibly confident” that BYU will be able to put together rosters that will exceed expectations.
When asked to share his offensive philosophy simply he said (in a somewhat cheeky manner), “Offensively we’d like to be as aggressive as we can with our roster and defensively we’d like to be aggressive as we can with our roster.”
Broadcaster Greg Wrubell asked Pope about his great success at UVU with bringing the team into the top 100 in KenPom rankings, and what his concrete expectations and goals were at BYU.
“I don’t deal in realistic expectations,” Pope answered. “I don’t believe in them.”
He shared how one UVU administrator told him not to play BYU, and how he did not like that.
“Why would we go to realistic expectations? Let’s go win big or let’s go crash and burn but let’s go do it.” Pope has shown he believes that to be true, in scheduling as many college basketball giants as he can — like Duke, Kentucky, and Gonzaga in his time at UVU. “I don’t like to deal in realism that’s why I’m in sports,” he finished.
A student with the Daily Universe asked Pope what he would like to accomplish in his first year as coach at BYU. Pope shared three main goals:
- To not get fired
- To win over this team, help the team capture his vision, and renew their vigor and intensity
- Recruit really hard
He joked that the student should ask him again in November and he will have more goals set then.
You can watch the whole press conference below: