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Louisville Hires Xavier's Mack as Head Hoops Coach

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Copyright 2018 The Evansville Courier Co.
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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The University of Louisville and Chris Mack have agreed to terms on a seven-year deal to make Mack the school's new men's basketball coach, sources with direct knowledge of the deal told Courier Journal on Tuesday.

Mack, previously the head coach at Xavier, was long considered the favorite to land the job. He met with interim Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra on Saturday.

ESPN reported Mack's deal was worth "about $4 million" per year in salary. CBS Sports reported Mack is expected to bring Xavier assistant coaches Mike Pegues and Luke Murray, the son of actor Bill Murray, with him to Louisville.

Calling the past week "one of the toughest of my life," Mack tweeted a goodbye Tuesday afternoon to Xavier.

"No other opportunity has ever felt 'right' until now," Mack tweeted without naming Louisville. "Ultimately, I felt like this situation offered a new and unique challenge that I could not turn down."

Louisville is expected to introduce Mack at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon after the school's athletic association and trustees meet at the KFC Yum Center to approve the hire.

A Louisville spokesman said a contract had not been signed as of Tuesday afternoon.

"Reports that the University of Louisville has hired a men's basketball coach are premature," Louisville spokesman John Karman said in a statement. "There is no contract. The appropriate boards have not yet met to consider a contract. Nor are the board members aware of any terms in a potential contract."

A 48-year-old who grew up in the Cincinnati area, Mack takes over a program in need of a jolt after a chaotic few years.

Louisville suspended Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino just days before formal preseason practices started and later fired him, appointing former assistant coach and player David Padgett as the interim coach.

Padgett and Louisville parted ways after the season.

Louisville finished 22-14 and missed the NCAA Tournament, losing in the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals.

Mack guided Xavier to the regular-season Big East title this season, winning 23 or more games for the seventh time in his nine seasons leading the Musketeers. Mack's teams have reached three NCAA Tournament Sweet 16s and one Elite Eight.

A former player at Evansville and later Xavier, Mack started his career as a high school girls basketball coach. He eventually joined Skip Prosser's staff at Xavier and followed him to Wake Forest before returning to work for Sean Miller at Xavier.

When Miller left for Arizona, Mack was promoted to head coach.

Xavier went 29-6 and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season, losing to Florida State in a second-round upset.

He takes over a Louisville team expecting to return several key players, including freshmen Darius Perry, Jordan Nwora, Lance Thomas and Malik Williams, along with sophomore wing V.J. King and redshirt sophomores Dwayne Sutton and Ryan McMahon. Former Connecticut big man Steven Enoch will be eligible to play next season after sitting out due to transfer rules.

Mack and his incoming staff will likely want to add at least three late signees to Louisville's roster. Juniors Deng Adel and Ray Spalding plan to work out for NBA teams over the next two months before deciding if they'll remain in the draft pool or return to school for their senior years.

Recruiting will be one of the first tasks on Mack's list, along with re-recruiting the current roster. Several of Louisville's current players and their parents said over the past week they were excited about the possibility of Mack coaching the team.

Two of Xavier's past four recruiting classes ranked in the top 15 nationally, including Rivals.com's No. 9 class in 2017.

Trinity High guard David Johnson, a Class of 2019 prospect, was being actively recruited by Louisville and Xavier before Mack's hiring. The 6-foot-5 Johnson figures to remain at the top of Louisville's list with the new coach in place.

Mack was the U.S. Basketball Writers Association National Coach of the Year in 2016 and was named the Atlantic 10 Conference Coach of the Year in 2011 and Big East Coach of the Year this season.

His Xavier teams had a 7-4 record against ACC opponents, and he has been known for his player-development prowess and offensive smarts. Mack's teams have ranked in the top 30 nationally in offensive efficiency over the past four seasons, according to Ken Pomeroy's college basketball analytics site.

Opposing coaches also praised Mack's Xavier teams for their physicality on both ends of the floor.

Three players who competed for Mack's teams have been selected in the NBA draft, including 2010 first-round pick Jordan Crawford, who transferred from Indiana and played his only season at Xavier with Mack at the helm.

Mack's move brings his wife, the former Christi Hester, who was a star athlete at Holy Cross High School, home to Louisville. The Macks still have family in the area.

The hiring also marks the start of a new chapter in Louisville basketball history. The university has only had five coaches since the 1944-45 season.

Mack takes the reins at a particularly critical time for the program, which is still healing after the NCAA's Committee on Infractions vacated the Cardinals' 2013 national championship and 2012 Final Four appearance.

Louisville is one of several big-name basketball programs operating under a cloud of uncertainty after the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting ensnared the school. Pitino was fired in October after some of the findings in the FBI's inquiry were unsealed.

Mack will be tasked with not only leading the Cardinals back to the NCAA Tournament, but also with helping to repair Louisville's reputation in the basketball world and keeping a rabid fan base engaged.

Tyra, whose interim tag on Monday was removed from his title as athletic director, said last week he aimed to hire an "elite" coach for an "elite" program.

His change in title empowered him to enter the final stages of the coaching search and "close the deal," Tyra said Tuesday on the "Deener Show" on ESPN 680.

Any coaching hire will have to be approved by the University of Louisville Athletic Association, which is expected to support the hiring.

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March 28, 2018
 
 
 

 

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