The story of how Kentucky’s new coach scored a divine endorsement from Pope Francis

Mark Pope’s time as Kentucky’s head coach starts with a supernatural nod from the Vatican. It’s a new era for Kentucky basketball as Mark Pope takes the helm, filling some very enormous shoes left by John Calipari. The departure from Calipari, a name linked with top-tier recruitment and lofty expectations, may have left Wildcat fans wanting more. But Mark Pope, never one to back down from a challenge, began his tenure with a celestial stamp of approval, receiving what may be the highest endorsement possible – from Pope Francis himself!

In an unexpected mix of faith and basketball, the Vatican recently served as a venue for Kentucky’s latest recruitment campaign. Pope Francis now proudly wears a Kentucky jersey imprinted with the term “Pope,” according to Father Jim Sichoko of the Diocese of Lexington and a wonderful gesture orchestrated with the help of the University of Kentucky’s president, Eli Capilouto. And no, this is not a divine joke. During his visit to the Vatican, Father Sichoko presented the pontiff with a jersey bearing the number 23, which represents Mark Pope as Kentucky’s 23rd head coach. Instead of the normal handover to staff for storage, Pope Francis was so taken with the gesture that he kept the jersey on his lap, thoroughly intrigued. Mark Pope’s strategic play for the season


Back on the court, Mark Pope’s rise through the coaching ranks has been marked by consistent development and demonstrated leadership. From his early days at Georgia under Mark Fox to a memorable tenure at BYU, Pope has demonstrated the ability to develop and sustain success. His record speaks for itself, with repeated postseason appearances and sustained team progress, culminating in his current role at Kentucky.
Now, as he faces the arduous challenge of rebuilding a Kentucky team decimated by NBA drafts and Calipari’s departure, Pope is already making strategic moves. With new recruits from West Virginia, Drexel, and San Diego State, he’s putting together a team that will not only compete, but also dominate.

With the divine jersey in Vatican City and new talent on the roster, it appears like Mark Pope’s period at Kentucky has been blessed from above.

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