PROVO — A lot of questions have yet to be answered regarding what type of coach Mark Pope will prove to be at BYU, although his ability to work a room was demonstrated during Wednesday's press conference. Pope proved engaging and passionate during his opening comments and in taking multiple questions from the media.
Among those in attendance was former BYU player and current graduate assistant Nate Austin, who played for Pope during three of his four seasons in Provo. Like most, Austin has fond memories of being coached by Pope, and although he loved the idea of the former Cougar assistant returning to the program, he was torn between his two top choices.
"I also have a great relationship with Quincy (Lewis) and think he would have been a great choice, but I'm obviously very happy that Coach Pope is coming back," said Austin, who played for Lewis at Lone Peak High School. "I loved being coached by him and think he'll do an amazing job here. I'm excited to see what he can do here."
Pope spent a great deal of time making sure to greet everyone in attendance before and after the press conference, making everyone feel their presence was noted and appreciated. Such a gesture is a common thing for BYU's new head coach, according to Austin.
"He just has a way of making you feel like a million bucks," Austin said. "He's all about relationships and makes you feel like you're capable of anything. As a player, I'd run through a wall for him, just because of how he made me feel and because of the strong relationship we built."
One of the lighter moments of Wednesday's press conference came when Pope described himself as someone who may not be the smartest guy alive, but as someone who is absolutely relentless. For Austin, he agreed with half of the statement.
"He's very smart. Don't let him fool you. He understands basketball very well, but he's humble like that," Austin said. "But yeah, no one works harder in working with players and the team on how to get better. He doesn't accept just taking losses and constantly works to get better and improve on every single thing."9 comments on this story
Pope also proved engaging throughout his nearly half hour press conference, which Austin notes is typical.
"I remember a fireside talk he gave when we played (Massachusetts) and he gave an entire talk with no notes, for like a half hour," Austin said. "He's just so knowledgeable about just about everything. He draws people to him and makes them feel like they're the greatest people in the world. It's an amazing gift and is one of the reasons why I'm so excited to have him back here as the head coach."