HOUSTON -- Rice graduate and two-time Texas High School Baseball Coach of the Year John Pope has joined the Rice baseball staff as an assistant coach, Owl head coach Wayne Graham announced on Friday (July 15).
Pope (Rice 1990, Jones College) returns to his alma mater after serving the last nine seasons as the head baseball coach at Cypress Ranch High School where he led the program to state championships in both 2012 and 2015. In both championship seasons the Houston native and former Owl pitcher was named the 5A/6A Coach of the Year by the Texas Sports Writers Association. With a full 19 years of coaching (and teaching) at the high school level, a host of Pope's former players have gone on to play baseball at the college level.
"John is a great coach and will work with our pitchers," said coach Graham, who likewise began his own coaching career in the Houston area high school ranks more than 42 years ago. "You have to appreciate the job he has done at Cy Ranch. He started that program from scratch in 2008, and won the state title four years later by the time those players were seniors in 2012. He has already seen first-hand a lot of the best players in the state, certainly the best players in this area. He also has a relationship with a lot of high school coaches, from his time on the field and in his work as an administrator for the (Texas High School) Coaches Association.
"The fact that he is a Rice graduate was also important," coach Graham added. "He already knows what it's like to be a student-athlete at Rice, and academics is important to him. He has a Masters (in Educational Administration from Lamar in 2009), and could have pursued a lot of different jobs other than coaching. We're happy to have John. I am anxious to get the new season started."
In addition to nine seasons as the head coach at Cy Ranch, Pope has coached and taught at Cy Fair, Scarborough and Westbury high schools. He was a left-handed prep standout at Westbury, and played his final two collegiate seasons at Rice in 1988 and 1989.
In 25 career appearances at Rice Pope registered a total of 102 strikeouts in 87.2 innings. He had one save to go along with five career wins, the highlight being the winning pitcher in the Owls' 6-4 Southwest Conference victory over Texas in 1989 -- the same year the Longhorns went on to finish second in the College World Series.
"Coming back to Rice and having a chance to learn under coach Graham is an amazing opportunity, and a dream come true," Pope said. "I have followed the program very closely this whole time. I may not have played for coach Graham when I was at Rice, but am proud of what he has done for my school. I am fired-up to say the least."