Pope Hire Good for BYU Big Men
Wednesday’s hiring of Mark Pope as an assistant basketball coach should be a very good thing for BYU’s inside game.
As a player, the 6-foot-10 Pope played in the post in the SEC and PAC-10 in college. He also had a seven-year, journeyman NBA career and played professionally in Turkey.
He was a team captain on the 1996 Kentucky Wildcat team that won the national championship under then coach Rick Pitino, averaging over seven points and five rebounds per game.
He transferred to Kentucky after playing his first two seasons at Washington where he was named as the PAC-10 Freshman of the Year and set a freshman school record for the Huskies by averaging 8.1 rebounds per game.
He comes to Provo after serving as an assistant for one year at Wake Forest, following a season as the director of basketball operations at Georgia.
While it hasn’t been announced exactly what Pope’s responsibilities will be on Dave Rose’s staff, you can bet than one of them will be working with the Cougar big men.
BYU certainly hopes he will have the chance to coach 6-9 star forward Brandon Davies next season. The junior-to-be is trying to get himself back into school this fall, following his much-publicized suspension last season.
The Cougars also hope 6-9 forward Chris Collinsworth will return to complete health following season-ending surgery last year.
BYU loses 6-10 center James Anderson, who decided to hang up basketball after his junior season, but gain two freshmen, return missionary big men in Nate Austin, a 6-10 forward from Lone Peak High School, and Ian Harward, a 6-10 center from Orem High.
Rose also signed 6-10 post player Isaac Neilson from Mission Viejo, California this past November. Neilson is expected to leave on a mission in December however, and will not play for BYU until 2014.
The truth be told, the Cougars have long been in need of someone that can come in and really coach up their guys in the middle. If there has been one criticism of BYU basketball over the years, it’s the perception that the program’s big men have failed to really develop to their full potential.
Pope’s experience and background certainly fills that need, being the first BYU assistant in recent memory to have actually played in the post during his career.
However, his addition to the staff is not likely to fill the significant void of coaching the offense, created by the loss of Dave Rice to UNLV.
The most likely move on offense will be to shift much of the responsibility to Terry Nashif, with initial oversight by Rose as Terry grows into the role. A former point guard for the Cougars, Nashif was given more responsibilities with the offense last season under Rice’s tutelage, with the expectation that Rice could well end up getting his first head coaching gig following the 2010-11 season.
Rose considers Nashif to have a bright future as a coach.
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