Skip to main content

Mark Pope's family is already embracing his Kentucky family, the Big Blue Nation

On3 imageby:Tyler Thompson04/15/24


There were a lot of special moments in Mark Pope’s introductory press conference. From the moment he got off the bus with the 1996 national championship trophy to vowing to put more banners in the rafters and all the nods to the importance of the Kentucky jersey in between, it was a breath of fresh air for a weary fanbase.

One of the coolest moments came when Pope, captain of the Untouchables, introduced his family to his Big Blue family. Pope’s wife Lee Anne and daughters Ella, Avery, Layla, and Shay took the floor before he did to a standing ovation, the first of many big cheers they would receive that afternoon. After Pope took the stage, started his remarks, and burst out into an impromptu C-A-T-S chant, he turned toward his girls and asked them to stand up one by one. Each of his daughters wore one of his No. 41 Kentucky jerseys.

“Like Mitch said, I love this place from the depths of my soul. It changed my entire life. If you will indulge me briefly, I would like to introduce my family to your family. And I would like to show you how much we love this place.”

Lee Anne Pope, wife of Mark Pope, and her daughters are introduced at Rupp Arena - Aaron Perkins, Kentucky Sports Radio
Lee Anne Pope, wife of Mark Pope, and her daughters are introduced at Rupp Arena – Aaron Perkins, Kentucky Sports Radio

Pope first introduced his daughter Layla, a freshman at BYU, who received the news that he’d been offered the Kentucky job in the best way possible.

“This is 100 percent a true story. When Mitch offered us a job, he gave us a couple of hours to consult our family. We didn’t need it. He knew I would walk here to take this job. But as we gathered the girls from all of the various places, Layla Pope walks in the door, and I kid you not, her first words were, she knows the deal, ‘Tell me who is in the house tonight? UK.’ She did exactly that, exactly that. True story.”

Avery, the second eldest, and Shay, the youngest, dug into their dad’s boxes in the basement for the perfect attire.

“That evening, Avery, stand up, and Shay, stand up and say hi. I don’t know how they did it or where it came from, but they went down in the basement in storage and both came up with ’96 Untouchable vintage T-shirts. I have no idea.”

Ella, who just graduated from Ohio University, had one simple question for her dad when he told her about the offer.

“Ella is my oldest daughter, and she knows me the best and my history the best. And her only question was: ‘Dad, when are we going?’ Of course it was.”

Subscribe to the KSR YouTube Channel for press conferences, interviews, original shows, fan features, and exclusive content.

“She will get to know every single one of you and love you like crazy”

Pope saved his wife Lee Anne for last. A coach’s daughter herself, Lee Anne knows what the profession can do to a family and through her husband, how amplified that could be at a program like Kentucky. Even with all of that, Pope said Lee Anne didn’t hesitate.

“If you are a mother, and you can imagine all of the pressure and stress that comes with life as a mom and all of the things that she has to consider every single day,” Pope said. “And we sat around the table and got everybody’s reaction and with all of the burden, with all of the grace and courage and elegance you can imagine, Lee Anne looked across the table and said, ‘Let’s go.'”

As you can imagine, the crowd went wild.

“You don’t need to know this, but I will say it anyway because I can, I’m madly in love with this woman. She makes sense of my life. I’m so grateful for her. And you will quickly find out, she will get to know every single one of you and love you like crazy. It will be really special, okay?”

How special is Lee Anne Pope? After spending the weekend reading about her, she’s just as active in the program as her husband is. If you listen to Pope’s former players, she’s the ultimate coach’s wife. Rex Chapman shared a story Houston coach Kelvin Sampson told him about how Lee Anne baked cookies for every opposing team that BYU played in Provo.

I met Lee Anne briefly after the press conference was over and asked what I wanted to ask her husband before the final call for questions was made: what was her advice to Mark over the last 72 hours?

“Just be you.”

Clearly, Pope has no problem doing that, nor do his girls making themselves home at Rupp Arena:

It was a moment I’m sure Mark Pope has been dreaming of for a long time, and it didn’t disappoint.

“So, Pope family, stand up because this is important. I want you to turn around and, Pope family, I want to introduce you to our family.”

Two families coming together on a Sunday afternoon. What’s better?

Discuss This Article

Comments have moved.

Join the conversation and talk about this article and all things Kentucky Sports in the new KSR Message Board.