BYU hires Suns assistant Kevin Young as men’s basketball coach, replacing Mark Pope

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BYU hires Suns assistant Kevin Young as men’s basketball coach, replacing Mark Pope

BYU is hiring Phoenix Suns assistant coach Kevin Young to fill the men’s basketball head coach vacancy left by Mark Pope, the university confirmed Tuesday.

Young, 42, is originally from Salt Lake City. He has spent nearly his entire 18-year coaching career in the professional ranks, moving from G League assistant to G League head coach to NBA assistant to his current role as NBA associate head coach. Young is the highest-paid assistant coach in the NBA and will remain with the Suns through the playoffs, according to ESPN, which broke news of the hiring.

Pope spent five years at BYU, going 110-52 overall, making two NCAA Tournament appearances, and, most notably, transitioning the program to Big 12 play this season. He accepted the job at Kentucky, his alma mater, following John Calipari’s abrupt move to Arkansas during Final Four weekend.

Young has played an important role during his four years in Phoenix. He joined then-coach Monty Williams’ staff in 2020-21, the year the Suns had a breakout season and advanced to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. Young was a lead voice on offense.

He had the respect of Chris Paul and built a strong relationship with Devin Booker. His roots are in the NBA’s developmental league, and his former colleagues there have always insisted it was just a matter of time before Young got a head-coaching job.

The surprising part is that it’s coming at the college level instead of the NBA. Young’s only college coaching experience is one season at Utah Valley (2007-08) and one season at Oxford College in Georgia (2008-09).

While Young’s inexperience in the college ranks could be a challenge, he’s also arriving at a time when college sports is so radically different that it’s not too far off from professional basketball. An NBA mindset of roster building is growing increasingly common, including programs adding general manager positions.

Young’s greater challenge will be leading BYU through a Big 12 conference that’s arguably the most demanding in college basketball, while doing so with roster contours different than any other program in high-major basketball.



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While BYU is a private school and not required to release contract specifics, the financial commitment to lure Young from the NBA is undoubtedly significant.

Young’s decision to remain with the Suns through the playoffs comes at a critical time in the college roster construction calendar. The transfer portal is open for two more weeks, with players moving rapidly.

Four key BYU players are currently in the portal: Aly Khalifa, Dallin Hall, Richie Saunders and Marcus Adams Jr.

While Young will likely look to re-recruit some of those pieces, BYU still returns a solid core of veterans with Trevin Knell, Fousseyni Traore, Noah Waterman, Atiki Ally Atiki, Trey Stewart and Dawson Baker, along with rising sophomore Isaac Davis.

BYU finished 23-11 last season, going 10-8 in its first season of Big 12 play. The Cougars finished inside the top 20 in KenPom’s efficiency ratings for only the fourth time since 1997, when the ratings begin.

Young is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church that owns and operates BYU. According to the university, for head coaches in BYU athletics, it has been a practice but not a policy for them to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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(Photo: Christian Petersen / Getty Images)