St. John's basketball: Kentucky hires BYU's Mark Pope, has no contact with Rick Pitino

The Red Storm coach, as expected, isn't going anywhere
Creighton v St. John's; St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino
Creighton v St. John's; St. John's basketball head coach Rick Pitino / Porter Binks/GettyImages

Kentucky has hired a new men's basketball coach and it's not Rick Pitino. However, the new hire does have a strong connection with the St. John's basketball head coach.

Mark Pope will be the new head coach of the Wildcats, according to multiple reports, as the BYU head coach agreed to a deal on Thursday night after the school whiffed on its top candidates, which did not include Pitino.

Many speculated that the ex-Kentucky head coach could return to Lexington and lead the program back to glory, but there was never any contact between the two sides. Pitino was not an option for the Wildcats.

Nevertheless, Pope and Pitino do have a long history with each other from the 1996 National Championship team, averaging 7.6 points per game for the record setting squad. Pope played for two seasons under Pitino at Kentucky.

The hire has been met with harsh criticism from Wildcat fans after the school was turned down by Alabama's Nate Oats, Baylor's Scott Drew, UConn's Dan Hurley, and the Chicago Bulls' Billy Donovan after John Calipari left for Arkansas.

Some fans, most of whom aided in running Calipari out of town for his recent lack of success in the NCAA Tournament, thought Auburn's Bruce Pearl or making a run at Pitino should be the next option for the historic blue-blood instead of hiring one of its former players.

A plane owned by one of Kentucky's biggest boosters, Joe Craft, was tracked flying from Lexington to New York on Thursday morning and many believed that it was to try and lure Pitino away from St. John's.

Instead, it was a meeting with Danny Hurley that Kentucky was allegedly going to offer the back-to-back National Champion a contract of eight years worth nearly $100 million, which he turned down.

There was never any meeting with Pitino while the Wildcat contingent were in the area.

Rick Pitino will continue to add to the Red Storm roster over the next few weeks in hopes of bringing the Johnnies back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019.