Xavier's Chris Mack reportedly reaches deal to become Louisville's next head coach – SB Nation


It looks like Louisville has found its next head coach. On Tuesday afternoon, CBS’ Gary Parrish reported Louisville and Xavier men’s head basketball coach Chris Mack have reached an agreement to replace both Rick Pitino and interim head coach David Padgett.

Mack has spent the last nine seasons as the Musketeer’s head coach, compiling a 215-97 record, including eight NCAA tournament appearances.

Shortly after the report surfaced, Mack took to Twitter to thank Xavier:

Mack’s hiring at the embattled powerhouse is no surprise. Louisville fans have long targeted Mack given his success at nearby Xavier. He’s guided the Musketeers to five straight NCAA tournaments, including four Sweet 16 bids and a No. 1 seed in 2018.

Here’s Card Chronicle’s Mike Rutherford on the hiring:

Mack has been a name on the radar of Louisville fans for years now. First, it was as the potential successor to Rick Pitino. Now it’s as the man who could potentially come in and re-energize a program trying to work its way of one of the most embarrassing periods in its history.

The NCAA tournament success (excluding this year) is obviously the biggest checkmark next to Mack’s name. Louisville fans have seen his Musketeer teams make deep run after deep run in March for the better part of the last decade. Where Mack will have to prove himself is on the recruiting trail. Recruiting at U of L is different than recruiting at Xavier, and Mack will have to showcase an ability to convince some of the nation’s best high school players to suit up for the Cardinals during a still turbulent time for the program.

Mack will also have to live up to the defensive standards Louisville fans have for their teams. Before this season, the Cardinals had ranked in the top 10 of Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency ratings in each of the past seven years. Over that same span, Mack’s teams averaged a defensive efficiency ranking of 56. That will have to improve, and Louisville fans will hope that having bigger and more athletic pieces to work with will help make that happen.

Mack played at Xavier from 1991-93, too. Prior to him being hired as Xavier’s head coach, he coached high school basketball in the 1990s, and was an assistant at both Xavier and Wake Forest. The hiring comes just a little over a week after Xavier’s upset loss to Florida State in the Second Round of the NCAA tournament.

Why is Louisville a promotion AND a major risk for Mack?

Mack wasn’t quite set for life at Xavier, but after eight tournament bids in nine seasons and a handful of Sweet 16 banners, he’d proven a worthy successor to Sean Miller. He was drought-resistant, especially at a program still looking to prove its a blue blood destination and not just a stepping stone for ambitious coaches. But Mack is leaving his alma mater anyway for a university with a greater track record of recent success — even if the NCAA doesn’t see it that way.

The Cardinals are under extreme NCAA — and FBI — scrutiny after years of investigations. Somehow it wasn’t reports of assistant coaches hiring escorts for recruits that ended Pitino’s tenure, but the FBI’s sting that caught the program paying five-star recruit Brian Bowen six figures for his commitment. That left the team in the hands of interim head coach David Padgett, who failed to push the team to the NCAA tournament.

The university was left with a gaping leadership void in its most prestigious sport and the need to hire a squeaky-clean candidate to fill it. Hiring Mack, who has avoided the NCAA and FBI’s discipline in his near-decade as a college head coach, is a great way to do that. Mack’s biggest character concern may be the chippiness he’s displayed against local rival Cincinnati — a trait that should endear him to Cardinals fans.

But he won’t have the full power of a Louisville juggernaut that earned a No. 4 seed or better in eight of the last 10 NCAA tournaments. The Cardinals will have to rebuild on the fly to overcome the taint created by this latest scandal, and that may take years. Leading scorer Deng Adel is leaning toward entering the 2018 NBA Draft, and useful seniors Quentin Snyder and Anas Mahmoud won’t return.

Replacing them will be difficult. The team’s 2018 recruiting cupboard is currently bare, and Mack has never been a high-profile recruiter like Pitino was before him. The class he leaves behind at Xavier featured a trio of three-star players, and though he’d landed of plenty important four-star players in his tenure with the Musketeers, he may have to fight against Louisville’s reputation rather than rely on it when visiting prospects.

Mack is adept at developing talent, but it may take a while for his best players to make an impact. Louisville fans will have to accept a slow build if they’re going to embrace the former Xavier head coach — but he’s still arguably the best possible man for the job. The Cardinals got crushed by disciplinary issues in 2018, but to still manage to come away with an accomplished coach like Mack is a major win for Louisville.



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