29 Apr

BYU hires Kevin Young after Kentucky plucks Mark Pope

What a cataclysmic winter-into-spring we just had on the college basketball coaching carousel.

While the 2021, 2022 and 2023 carousel tours were plenty noisy/historic in their own rights (reminder: North Carolina, Duke, Villanova, Arizona, Louisville, Indiana, Marquette, Maryland, Texas (twice) and Syracuse all had swaps in the past three seasons), I’ve gotta say, 2024 tops those years. The cycle is officially one of the most memorable and meaningful we’ve ever seen. Then, when you factor in the past three years on top of 2024, it’s easy to make the case the sport has undergone greater symbolic change in its coaching ranks than ever before in such a short period of time.

A major factor in 2024 being legendary is the change in leadership at Kentucky. When a blue blood suddenly opens up on the eve of the national championship game, it’s a kaboom. To think, that was induced because Eric Musselman bolted for USC two days before the Final Four. (Which was its own tempest of a news cycle that has been swallowed up in all that’s happened since.) John Calipari’s retreat out of Kentucky was an earthquake and overshadowed the build-up to UConn’s back-to-back championships in the hours before the Huskies waltzed past Purdue on April 8.

As a result, Calipari’s exodus to Arkansas will bring increased intrigue to the sport next season. Spicy stuff in the SEC. Calipari managed to convince Kenny Payne to join his staff as the top assistant, which ups the fascination level in Fayetteville.

Thankfully, Kentucky didn’t take long to fill after Scott Drew and Dan Hurley passed on the job. In Cal’s place is 51-year-old Mark Pope, who will outdo Calipari’s energy in Lexington. Pope left BYU for his alma mater and is yet another alumnus taking over at a high-profile basketball institution. Initial response on Pope’s hiring was mixed, but Big Blue Nation quickly flocked to form and filled Rupp Arena to capacity for his introductory press conference Sunday afternoon. An incredible scene that’s a testament to that fan base’s immeasurable passion.

One of our own. @CoachMarkPope x #BBN pic.twitter.com/YspioVuZbc

— Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) April 14, 2024
Kentucky taking Pope meant that the final power-conference job to fill was BYU. It didn’t take long to fill. Kevin Young, the lead assistant the past three seasons for the Phoenix Suns, is the next coach of the Cougars. A source said Young has a seven-year deal in the vicinity of $30 million — by far the biggest financial commitment in basketball in BYU history. For the full story on why and how BYU got Young to say yes (and doing so while breaking its own traditional hiring rules in the process) check out the details here. I also have more below.

We officially locked up all coaching vacancies over the weekend. Here’s an expansive look at the ’24 carousel, which had 64 job switches (that’s 17.7% of D-I) this cycle.

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