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National Media Suggests John Calipari Should Be Fired

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UK Athletics

For a prestigious basketball program like Kentucky, missing the tournament is a disappointment, but not winning an NCAA Tournament game in five years is unacceptable. Yet, if the Wildcats miss the big dance this year, that is what they will be facing.

It does need to be said that the NCAA Tournament was canceled in the 2019-20 season, but Kentucky has suffered the worst season in program history and the worst postseason loss in the two seasons since.

Ranked in the top five in the preseason rankings, this year’s Kentucky team was expected to right the ship and make a deep run in March. However, they have been one of the biggest disappointing teams in the country and are on the verge of missing the tournament for the second time in three years.

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Joe Lunardi’s most recent Bracketology has Kentucky listed as the second team out of the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for them, they still have an opportunity to push themselves into the field.

To close out the season, the Wildcats will have a tough six-game stretch that will consist of four – potentially five – quad-one opportunities. If they are able to grab some quality wins, they could save their season.

The first game of that stretch is a road game against Mississippi State on Wednesday, but a lot of national media platforms have already given up on the Cats and well, the Calipari era in general.

Each of the last six games deals a whole lot to Kentucky and their tournament hopes, but some national media platforms have already given up on the Cats and well, the Calipari era in general.

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Dan Wolken from USA Today stated the “$86 million marriage no longer works.” Also stated in Wolkens’ article “As Kentucky limps toward March, it’s obvious the John Calipari era needs to End,” as Kentucky has been “adrift” since the 2020-21 season, and Calipari’s coaching performances have been “fireable”.

Comparing this year’s team to Calipari’s early teams during his immediate success at Kentucky, Wolken says, “the product looks increasingly stale and unwatchable, regardless of what players he puts out on the floor,” in recent years.

Calipari hasn’t met the standard of Kentucky basketball in recent seasons and deserves criticism for those shortcomings. However, Kentucky is not the only blue-blood struggling, as Duke and North Carolina could feasibly miss the tournament this season as well.

One reason for this is that college basketball has changed drastically, both on the court and off the court, which has created a more ‘even’ playing field. Case in point, other teams in the SEC have made a point to invest more into basketball and they have caught up with Calipari, using NIL and the transfer portal.

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Wolken is not the only national media member to take this stance, as others such as Jeff Goodman and Dana O’Neil – both longtime Calipari critics – have provided similar opinions.

Let’s say that they are right and that Calipari does need to be fired, there is one major barrier, his contract buyout. With a buyout estimated at around $40 million, Calipari has one of the largest in all of sports, keeping his job safe for the time being.

Signing one of the best recruiting classes (on paper) in collegiate history for next season- which includes three top-five prospects – Calipari has shown that he can still recruit as well as anyone, but has left much to be desired with his X’s and O’s.

The Cats have their backs against the wall, but as mentioned have a lot of tough opportunistic games to improve on their tournament resume. This six-game stretch is not just an opportunity for the players to flip the narrative, but Calipari as well.

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Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

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It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

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Men's Basketball

Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

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“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

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Men's Basketball

REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

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The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

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