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Pat Kelsey addresses Louisville vs. Kentucky rivalry, Mark Pope

IMG_0985by:Griffin McVeigh06/08/24


When Louisville and Kentucky meet on the hardwood this season, two new head coaches will be on the sidelines. Pat Kelsey is new to the Commonwealth with Louisville, while Mark Pope is returning back to his alma mater to coach in front of Big Blue Nation.

There has not been too much overlap between the two coaches in years prior. Pope has been out West since 2011 while Kelsey has either been on the East Coast or Midwest for his entire coaching career. But Kelsey is still familiar with the great work Pope has done in the past, specifically with the Cougars.

“I know he’s a phenomenal coach,” Kelsey said. “He’s had a ton of success at BYU. I have the utmost respect for him.”

Pope knows all about the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry, living it for plenty of years. During his two seasons as a player with the Wildcats, Pope went 1-1 against the Cardinals. Winning in Rupp Arena had to be a special moment for him en route to a national championship.

Kelsey is still learning about the feud between the two programs and until he coaches in the game, he is learning from the outside.

There is a rivalry he can draw experience from, though. Growing up in Cincinnati, there was a big matchup in the city that consumed people’s lives. But Kelsey understands Louisville-Kentucky might be on a different level in the basketball-crazy state.

“It’s been mentioned to me a couple times that it’s a pretty big rivalry,” Kelsey said joking. “They said it kind of matters around here a little bit. I gotta write that down real quick.

“Rivalries are what make college sports great. It’s one of the things that’s great about collegiate sports. I grew up in Cincinnati — Xavier and Cincinnati were huge, huge rivals. Louisville-Kentucky is like that on steroids.”

Dec. 14 is reportedly the date fans need to circle their calendars. Kelsey and Louisville will head to Lexington for the latest edition of the rivalry. Pope already has the Kentucky fans rocking and bringing the hated Cardinals to town will have the place buzzing.

Kelsey is hoping to play spoiler and get a huge, statement win in his first season in charge. And there is no better way to introduce yourself as the Louisville head coach than beating the Wildcats on the road. A huge opportunity for everyone involved later in the year.