Kentucky's surprising hire

After being turned down by Scott Drew and Dan Hurley, Big Blue Nation turns to BYU coach (and former player) Mark Pope. A rundown of the progression and the reax. Also, latest on transfer portal, Houston's departure and good news for Marquette and Duke.

Most of the world spent Thursday talking about OJ Simpson. Not college basketball fans. It had its own chase going on.

Let's dive in.

1. The progression of Scott Drew to Mark Pope

Kentucky found its replacement for John Calipari in BYU coach (and former Wildcat) Mark Pope, who — as of late Thursday night — was closing in on a deal with the school.

It was quite the ride considering how it started the day.

Scott Drew’s decision

Thursday morning, Kentucky had to feel good about its pitch to Baylor coach Scott Drew. He’d reportedly been a favorite of Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart for years, and he took Wednesday night to seriously consider the job. Didn’t happen.

Drew’s been at Baylor for 21 seasons, won a natty, and is synonymous with the program. It’s an understandable decision, but was somewhat surprising.

(Had he taken the job, this likely would’ve set off a few Big 12 coaching dominoes).

“Make Hurley say no”… and he did

After winning the national championship on Monday, UConn coach Dan Hurley made it clear he wasn’t interested in any other job, including Kentucky. But once Drew was out of the mix, Kentucky pushed hard for Hurley with a massive offer that would’ve made him the highest paid coach in the sport. Didn’t happen.

Return of Billy Donovan"?

That left another two-time national champion to consider. Billy Donovan hasn’t coached college hoops since 2015, but his Florida tenure remains one of the crowning achievements this century.

However, as the current coach of the Chicago Bulls, his season wouldn’t end until Tuesday/Wednesday next week. There was some thought Barnhart would just pause the search until then. Didn’t happen.

Start of the Mark Pope era

Instead, Kentucky went younger, and with a familiar face.

Pope, 51, won a national title as a player at Kentucky in 1996, and has been an assistant at Georgia, Wake Forest and BYU. His head coaching experience might leave some fans underwhelmed (I’ll get to that later), but there’s no doubt he’s qualified. He turned Utah Valley in to a winning program, then won 68% of his games at BYU. The Cougars rated higher than Kentucky on kenpom in three of his five seasons there.

He’ll reportedly sign a five-year deal worth $5.5 million annually, which supposedly is half of what Kentucky was offering Hurley.

Pope hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game and is coming off an upset loss to Duquesne in this year’s tourney. All that means Kentucky won win the press conference. But as Rob Dauster notes, that doesn’t matter. Pope’s offense will appeal to UK fans, and recruiting shouldn’t be an issue. He’ll get players to Kentucky.

This now creates new roster questions, both of Kentucky and BYU.

Which Wildcat players/commits will stick around? And who from BYU may come over? Jaxson Robinson, who led the team in scoring, started out in the SEC at Arkansas. Plus, Collin Chandler, a former top-40 prospect, is set to join the Cougars after a two-year mission. We’ll see how the next group of dominoes falls after this news.

2. It’s a day for X receipts

In five years, it’s gonna be an awesome day to see what people thought of the coaching news. Hey, at least this sucker didn’t stretch out over weeks.

Baylor was clearly delighted.

Dan Hurley saying no to Kentucky and the SEC resources was clearly impressive to observers.

The media reaction was mixed.

The fan/non-media reaction was less forgiving.

Keep those receipts, everyone.

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