Pope bolts for Kentucky, now what?

After one of the best seasons in program history, BYU men’s basketball head coach Mark Pope is leaving BYU for his dream job and the best college basketball job in the country, Kentucky. Once fellow Big 12 coach Scott Drew declined the job, momentum quickly shifted to the Kentucky alum and national champion to take over the Wildcats.

Here is a shortlist of candidates likely to replace Pope.

Mark Madsen, California Bears Head Coach

Maybe the most obvious choice for BYU is also the one that will cost the most. If BYU can convince Madsen to leave California and come to Provo it would be as close to a home run hire as BYU could make. Madsen played in the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves during his career and was an assistant coach with the Lakers before taking over for -coincidentally enough- Mark Pope at UVU. After a successful season at UVU in the 2022-23 season Madsen took over a massive rebuild for the Golden Bears this season. By all accounts, Madsen’s first season was a success and he was rewarded with a contract extension. BYU would have to pay Madsen’s buyout, which was recently updated with his contract extension. The new number for his buyout has not been reported yet.

Alex Jensen, Dallas Mavericks Assistant Coach

Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Jensen, currently the assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks spent the previous 10 seasons as an assistant coach for the Utah Jazz. With an already-established relationship with notable BYU alumni and Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith and President of Basketball Operations and BYU legend Danny Ainge. Jensen played for Utah Utes during his collegiate career for legendary head coach Rick Majerus. After his playing career, he coached under Majerus at the Saint Louis University. Jensen does not have any head coaching experience at the NCAA level but is highly respected throughout the NBA as an assistant.

Chris Burgess, Utah Utes Assistant Coach

Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

Burgess has quite a history with BYU and was a part of the BYU program under Mark Pope before returning to Utah to be an assistant coach for Craig Smith. Burgess infamously committed to Rick Majerus and Utah over BYU during his playing career and now has an opportunity to come full circle and coach the university he disappointed almost 25 years ago. Burgess was an assistant coach at UVU under Pope from 2015-2019 and BYU assistant coach from 2019-2022. As an assistant coach for BYU, Burgess knows the BYU program intimately and could hit the ground running given his recent experience with the Cougars.

Kevin Young, Phoenix Suns Assistant Coach

Rick Scuteri, AP

Young is the top assistant for the Phoenix Suns and is one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in the NBA. Young has been in the running for NBA head coaching candidates in the last two seasons and is likely to interview for more this upcoming offseason. Young has experience as an assistant coach at UVU and was the head coach for the Utah Flash. BYU should at least make a call even if Young has no interest in coming to Provo.

Other names to look out for

Should BYU strike out on the first few candidates, the list of notable coaches who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints starts to run dry. Barrett Peery is currently an assistant coach at UNLV who played at Snow College and Southern Utah and has been an assistant coach at Utah, Arizona State, and Texas Tech. Peery has head coaching experience at Portland State, Indian Hills Community College, and the College of Southern Idaho. Current BYU assistant coach Nick Robinson is also a candidate for the job. K.C. Beard is another name to look out for, he has been an assistant coach for Houston for the past 10 seasons. If this was not BYU, Cody Fueger would make the most sense as Pope’s replacement. However, he is not a member of the church. It is not a rule that coaches at BYU have to be members of the church, but history tells us that the Cougars’ next head coach will be.

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