GOOD NEWS: Kentucky coach Mark Pope has made a surprising decision about…

LEXINGTON, Ky. — One of the last players to exit a bus full of Kentucky greats on the Rupp Arena floor, Mark Pope held the 1996 NCAA championship trophy aloft and basked in the cheers during his introduction as the Wildcats’ new men’s basketball coach.

Pope then ratcheted up the energy in the packed arena, making clear his expectations are as high as the fans welcoming him to the most challenging chapter of his coaching career.

“Every coach in America at every other job in America stands up at the press conference and they try and moderate expectations,” Pope said Sunday. “We don’t do that here in Kentucky. When (athletic director) Mitch (Barnhart) called me and talked to me about being the head coach here at Kentucky, I understand the assignment. We are here to win banners.”

Pope’s introduction came two days after Kentucky hired him to replace John Calipari, a Hall of Fame coach who was hired by Arkansas on Wednesday after 15 years highlighted by winning the 2012 national championship. The 51-year-old Pope returned home after going 110-52 in five seasons at BYU with two NCAA Tournament appearances, including this spring, and found Rupp Arena just as he left it — loud and packed, even late on a Sunday afternoon in April.

The former Wildcats co-captain faces huge expectations guiding a program that had recently flamed out early in the NCAA Tournament and hasn’t reached the Final Four since 2015. Pressure-filled for sure, but nothing new to Pope after making two free throws in the final minute against Syracuse to help Kentucky clinch that sixth national title on a powerhouse 34-2 squad labeled “The Untouchables” by demanding then-coach Rick Pitino.

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