The Kentucky basketball team has a new head coach as former player Mark Pope is coming over from BYU to coach the Wildcats. Pope was a captain of the the 1996 Kentucky team that won the national title, and after John Calipari left to coach at Arkansas, Pope was hired as his replacement. The hire has gotten some mixed reviews, and one person that is surprised by it is former Kentucky star John Wall.

John Wall played for the Kentucky basketball team for just one season in 2009-10, and then he went to the NBA. He is a Wildcats legend, and he is also a bit surprised that Kentucky hired Mark Pope. He knows that Pope wasn't their first choice.

“I think it’s a surprise, I mean I don’t think he was one of their top choices,” Wall said during an episode of the Point Game Podcast. “I know they went after Billy Donovan, Scott Drew, and Dan Hurley. I think those were their main ones, Bruce Pearl was one of the ones on the radar. I don’t know too much about him, so I can’t  really speak on it, but from the press conference everybody was super excited and I know he probably got a lot of love because he was on the championship team there in ‘96 I think. … And I see he brought Tony Delk, Derek Anderson and those guys out with him, so I think that was dope.”

John Wall will be giving a lot of support to Mark Pope and Kentucky

University of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart and new men’s basketball coach Mark Pope hold a new basketball jersey up during Pope’s press conference
© Clare Grant/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

John Wall was a bit surprised by the hire, but that doesn't mean that he isn't going to continue to give his full support to the Kentucky basketball program. Wall is one of the most famous alums of the program, and while it will be different for him to see a new head coach take over, he still wants to build a good relationship with Pope and go to a lot of games.

“It’s going to be different for me though because I talked to a lot of Cal’s (John Calipari) assistants, a lot of people that were in the office that I knew and had personal relationships with because I played for them and was around them for a year,” Wall continued. “So it’s going to be different for me, but I think it’ll be the same love that I’ve always got, I don't think that will ever change, now it’s just trying to build a relationship with a new coach if he’s willing for that, I don't know how that goes, but I’m going to do everything to support them and go to games.”

It would be a big surprise if Pope didn't want to build a good relationship with a Kentucky great like John Wall. Like Wall said, the love that he gets from the university isn't going anywhere.

There have been a lot of surprises around the Kentucky program as of late. It was a big surprise to see the Wildcats lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against 14 seed Oakland. It was a big surprise to see John Calipari leave on his own after that loss and take the Arkansas job. And then like Wall said, it was also a bit surprising to see Mark Pope get hired as Calipari's replacement.

A new era of Kentucky basketball is now underway. Some are skeptical about Pope at Kentucky, but he definitely understands how important basketball is to everybody in that state, and he knows what an honor it is to coach the Wildcats and be part of that program. He won a national title there as a player, and now he is striving to do the same as a coach.