Eye on the Y: Catching up with BYU men’s basketball coach Mark Pope — and getting some answers out of him

In a wide-ranging discussion, he talks about the state of his program, the status of Alex Barcello and his own future plans.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope gives instructions to his team, in basketball action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Weber State Wildcats at Vivint Arena, on Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020.

Last week I spoke to Mark Pope for an upcoming feature story (which will be in this Sunday’s weekly print edition). The BYU coach and I talked for nearly an hour — part of it was just catching up on some personal stuff — but there was no way I could fit everything into Sunday’s story.

So, here we are.

For those that follow Pope on Instagram, you may have noticed that one of his daughters “took over” his account and had people send in their questions to the third-year coach. In a video response the next day, Pope said one of the questions he got the most was about Alex Barcello and whether he’s staying for another season or not.

Pope posted a video in his story as a response, spending most of the allotted time building up to the answer before strategically being cut off.

When I mentioned his antics, he playfully asked “Did it cut off?” After giving each other a hard time, I told him I knew he probably wouldn’t give me a straight answer, but asked if he knew what time frame we were looking at before we knew.

This is what Pope said:

“I mean, that’s really Alex’s deal. I do know that he finished courses and he’s just taking some personal time right now, and then I think he’ll probably have a decision for everybody here in the next few weeks, if my guess. But I would not want to paint him in a box. I mean, he’s going to make a decision when he’s ready to make a decision.”

Speaking of staying in Provo, we also talked about the recent coaching change at Arizona and how Pope was a considered a top contender to take over for Sean Miller. So, I straight up asked Pope how long he saw himself at BYU and how committed he was to the program.

Pope wasn’t as straight forward with his answer. But he did go into what this job means to him.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pope compared what he gets to do to that of receiving a calling.

“I think coaching is that way,” Pope said. “Take all the religion out of it. Take my analogy away, this idea of a calling in the church. I’ve been around basketball for a long time and, as players and coaches, nobody gets to do this forever. Nobody. We’d have to go back and check — I might have been fired more times than any player’s every been fired in the NBA. … Plus I was fired from my overseas job. It’s a pretty ugly track record, but that sense of like, I don’t know how long we get to do this, but I know I get to do this today. And I don’t know if there’s anybody more grateful than us that we just do this, but I know we get to do this today and I don’t know if there’s anybody more grateful than us that we just do this every year.”

We also joked about age, talked about the importance of journalism, caught up on our health and much more, but I figured this would be what y’all are most interested in.

For more, make sure to read Sunday’s story.

More thoughts

• For those that may have missed it, Zach Wilson picked his jersey number — and it’s not any of the numbers he used at BYU. The Draper native picked No. 2. Wilson was inspired by his draft pick number and wanted to play into that. I think it was a smart choice.

• BYU baseball’s season comes to an end this week, as the Cougars play their final regular season series against Pepperdine, starting tonight. And for BYU softball, the Cougars begin their postseason journey tonight when they play Virginia Tech in the first game of the Tempe Regional.

Other voices

Matt Brown: Iowa athletic director and College Football Playoff Committee chair Gary Barta underrates BYU football

Jason Scukanec: Does BYU owe former football players an apology?

Where Zach Wilson ranks among starting NFL quarterbacks

Normita’s Spanish Lesson of the Week



Mark Pope is bien chistoso.

Mark Pope is super funny.

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