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Landing Mack Proves Louisville is Still Elite

screen-shot-2018-04-04-at-2-59-21-amBy Howie Lindsey

After a year filled with terrible news,

national embarrassment and scandal, you can’t

blame Louisville fans if they’ve been a little giddy

these last few weeks.

Not only did the Board of Trustees hire fan favorite

Vince Tyra as Louisville’s athletic director,

but Tyra then turned around and hired the next

Hall of Fame coach to run Louisville basketball,

Chris Mack.

We’ll get back to Tyra in a second, but the big

news is Mack.

Amidst scandal and turmoil, Louisville landed

one of the top young coaches in basketball.

Mack was the 2017-18 Big East Coach of the

Year. He led Xavier to three conference titles, and

his team landed a Top 5 national ranking and a

No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season.

He already has 11 NCAA Tournament wins,

and he’s only 48 years old. He has four Sweet 16s

and one Elite Eight to his credit. And yes, the Final

Four has eluded him thus far, but he has built a

consistent winner at Xavier, and Louisville fans

can’t wait to see what he can do with Louisville’s

resources.

Mack is so well-respected in the coaching ranks

that he has been a candidate for several other Top

10 programs before. In fact, Mack was reportedly

pursued by Indiana, Georgetown and Ohio State

just within the last two years.

Which brings us to why Louisville fans are giddy.

Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive question

for Louisville fans: Are we still elite?

Given all the scandal and the likely future

punishment from the Brian Bowen recruitment,

there are some nationally who tried to paint the

Louisville job as a scrap heap. And there were some

loud voices locally who tried to portray the job as a

complete rebuild that would necessitate a former

player or first-time head coach to take the job.

Meanwhile others, like me, continued to point

out the incredible advantages Louisville has as a

program. Not only is it one of the Top 10 programs

of all time, the Cardinals are one of the mostprofitable

programs in the nation. UofL plays

in the most incredible college-only arena in the

world, and the facilities and fan support here

at Louisville are among the Top 5 in the nation.

Hiring Mack proves that Louisville is still elite.

Louisville is on another level than the jobs at Ohio

State or Indiana (jobs Mack turned down). And

THAT should make Louisville fans happy.

Hiring Mack is also an indication of the power

of Louisville’s status as elite.

Mack wasn’t just Xavier’s coach. Mack was a

Xavier lifer. He played there until 2000. He came

back to be an assistant coach at Xavier in 2004.

And he’s been Xavier’s head coach since 2009.

But the Louisville job just had too much allure.

Hear him tell it.

In a thank you note to Xavier just before he was

announced as Louisville’s coach, Mack wrote:

“For over 18 years I called Victory Parkway home.

From the day I walked on campus as a studentathlete

in 1990 – to returning as an assistant coach

in 2004 – to that life-changing moment when

I was named your head coach in 2009. … THIS

PLACE has always had my heart. That feeling

has made it so easy for me and my family to let

opportunities outside of Xavier come and go. No

other opportunity has ever felt ‘right,’ until now.

Ultimately, I felt like this situation offered a new

and unique challenge that I could not turn down.”

Louisville was too good to turn down.

After nearly three years of scandal, most

Louisville fans I know have this battered and

weary expression when talking about their men’s

basketball program. “Scandal fatigue” was one

of the many reasons listed why attendance was

down the last two seasons.

It was a messy divorce with Rick Pitino. And

the last six months have been spent hearing jokes

and snide remarks from friends in Kentucky or

Indiana gear. Louisville fans desperately needed

to hear someone outside the program tell them

they’re still attractive.

Mack did that in spades. One of the hottest

coaches in America just broke away from his

lifetime program to come coach at Louisville, likely

at one of the lowest points in program history.

And beyond that, when we heard for months

that no recruit would want to come to Louisville,

Mack turned that on its head. Even before he

officially landed the job he offered some of the

top talent in the country and made contacts with

several elite recruits still left in the 2018 class.

Speaking of good recruiting, let’s get back to

Tyra. Not only was Tyra extremely impressive

during his six-month stint as interim athletic

director, but he landed Chris Mack on the second

day of his term as the official AD.

Does Tyra still have more to learn about

collegiate athletics and running a department?

Sure. He’d tell you that as well. But his business

background and seemingly no-nonsense

communication style has made for good, positive

conversations around the athletic department.

The day he got the job as Louisville’s AD, Tyra

thanked previous Athletic Director Tom Jurich for

collecting such an incredible group of coaches

in all of Louisville’s sports. Tyra noted that day

he was ready to add another thoroughbred to

Louisville’s stable of coaches, and he did just that

when he hired Mack.

So even though Mack hasn’t won a game yet for

Louisville, it’s easy to see why Louisville fans are

giddy about the future of their program.


1Hiring Chris Mack answers a massive

question for Louisville fans:

Are we still elite?


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