Big 12 Basketball

Seven Candidates to Replace Mark Pope at BYU

Mar 21, 2024; Omaha, NE, USA; Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope keeps an eye on the action against the Duquesne Dukes in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at CHI Health Center Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

With Mark Pope leaving BYU to take over the program at Kentucky, the Cougars now have to start searching for a new men’s basketball coach.

This will be interesting. This is the first time BYU has initiated a major coaching search as a member of the Big 12 Conference. This is also the first time I’ve done a job board for a BYU job. Thus, this required me to do some research not just about the job but about the criteria they might use to hire.


It’s not just about being a great coach. According to a Salt Lake Tribune article from 2019, when Dave Rose retired, BYU is required to hire a coach that is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and operates BYU. Athletic director Tom Holmoe reiterated that requirement after football coach Bronco Mendenhall left for Virginia. 

We sometimes talk about hires like this being a “family hire?” Well, this one truly could be. To further research, I consulted sites like Vanquish the Foe, which covers BYU.

But, now that BYU is a member of a high-major conference and coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance, will they adhere to that criteria or compromise a bit on the LDS requirement to get the coach that can take them to the next level? That’s an awfully interesting question.

This might not get done fast, either. According to Benjamin Criddle, who covers BYU for ESPN 960 AM, BYU will have to at least 14 days to hire someone, I’m assuming due to state and/or school rules.

Here are seven names to watch.

Mark Madsen, Cal Head Coach

Per the Tribune back in 2019, Madsen was interested in the BYU job before Pope was hired. When Pope got the BYU job Madsen took over for him at Utah Valley. He led the Wolverines to the NIT semifinals two seasons ago and then took over at Cal last season, where he went 13-19.

Two things here. First, Madsen is an LDS member. Second, Cal is moving to the ACC. Madsen just saw Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDerveer retire at a time when cross-country travel was coming for her school. Would Madsen push for this job to get back to the area? For what it’s worth, Madsen reiterated his commitment to Cal shortly after Pope was officially announced as Kentucky’s coach. Not to be cynical, but I think BYU will make him say no.


Kahil Fennell, UT-Rio Grande Valley Head Coach

The BYU assistant just took the job at UT-Rio Grande Valley on … checks notes … Wednesday. It wouldn’t be the first time a coach took a job and then left for a job he coveted more a few days later (looking at you, Chris Beard). It’s an outside possibility, made more outside by the fact that he isn’t an LDS member, according to a story written on him by KSL back when he was hired as a BYU assistant.

But relationships are everything when you’re trying to retain current talent. Plus, at least one school believes he’s ready now.

Todd Simon, Bowling Green Head Coach

While not Mormon, he fits Pope’s profile in other ways. He was the head coach at Southern Utah for seven seasons, winning 20 or more games three years in a row before hopping to Bowling Green last season, where he went 20-14. He knows the area and he’s connected.

The downside is Bowling Green puts him closer to his boyhood home in Fowler, Mich. But this would be a big step up, career-wise.

Barret Peery, UNLV Assistant Coach

Peery’s name came up a lot in my research. Vanquish the Foe was quite high on him. He’s an LDS member and his resume is insane. He’s coached all over the Mountain and Pacific time zones, along with one season on Mark Adams’ bench at Texas Tech in 2021-22. In six seasons as a juco head coach at Snow College and Indian Hills he went a combined 181-29 and went to four NJCAA Division I National Tournaments.

He was less successful in a four-year stint as the head coach at Portland State — a 63-57 record with one CBI appearance. So does he just need the right opportunity or is he just a great assistant?


Cody Fueger, BYU Assistant Coach

If BYU is going to hire anyone internally, it will likely be Fueger, who was Pope’s assistant at both BYU and Utah Valley. He was a director of basketball operations at BYU, a Utah Valley video coordinator, got his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Utah and worked for Dave Rose (BYU), Rick Majerus (Utah) and Stew Morrill (Utah State). This is likely a dream opportunity for Fueger.

The problems? He isn’t an LDS member and doesn’t have head-coaching experience. Plus, he might follow Pope to Kentucky sensing it sets him up for a head-coaching job.

Chris Burgess, Utah Assistant Coach

With this job, you have to look around the area, so I took a look at other schools’ coaching staffs and Burgess stood out because he was formerly on Pope’s staffs at BYU and Utah Valley before taking the assistant job at Utah in 2022. Utah is his alma mater.

He’s spent practically his entire coaching career in the state, so he’s well-connected. He was a former top recruit out of Utah as a player. And, he’s Mormon. But, like some of these candidates, he’s never been a head coach.

Bryce Drew, Grand Canyon Head Coach

If BYU decides to compromise on the LDS requirement, perhaps BYU can do what Kentucky couldn’t and hire a Drew? He’s been at Grand Canyon, a private Christian school, for four seasons and taken the Lopes to three NCAA Tournament appearances, winning a game this March. He’s won 258 games since he started working as a head coach with Valparaiso in 2012, followed by three seasons at Vanderbilt.

He coaches a similar style of play to Pope, which would make for a rather seamless transition from one coach to another.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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