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Chris Mack to Louisville is good for the Kentucky rivalry and good for college basketball

On Tuesday, the least surprising move in the history of college basketball’s coaching carousel became official. After years of speculation that Chris Mack would someday be the man to replace Rick Pitino at Louisville (dating back to when Pitino actually had the job last season) Mack was officially named to the position. He will earn right around $30 million over the next seven years for the move.

Before we get into the particulars, let’s first give some quick credit to new Louisville AD Vince Tyra. Ultimately there was only one real name on Louisville’s coaching search list, only one guy he could get who would have the full support of the fan-base, alumni and boosters. That man was Mack, and if Tyra couldn’t get him, well, he would have had a lot of explaining to do (admittedly, Trya probably wouldn’t have gotten the full-time AD job either, but that’s beside the point). Tyra got his man however, and we have officially entered a new era of Louisville basketball.

So with Mack now officially a Cardinal, it brings us to the most important question: What’s next for Louisville basketball? It’s a fair question and one that just about everyone is asking today as the Mack news spread across the college basketball world.

Well, let me be the latest in a long line of people to say that this was just about the perfect hire for Louisville. One that is good for Louisville itself, good for the rivalry with Kentucky and good for college basketball as a whole.  

In terms of what kind of “coach” Louisville got, well, Mack is about as complete a package as their fan-base could have possibly hoped for. To use the most obvious cliché, Mack “checks all the boxes.” During his career at Xavier, Mack won right around 70 percent of his games, and showed an ability to win big in both the regular season and NCAA Tournament. In total, he won 20 or more games in eight of nine years as a head coach, and made the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in four of those seasons (that stat doesn’t even include this season, where the Musketeers were a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance).  Mack also proved to be about as good of a recruiter as anyone can be at Xavier, finishing with the No. 11 class nationally a year ago. That’s not “John Calipari good.” But considering where he was recruiting to, it’s nearly as impressive. And it should only pick up now that he’s at an ACC school with significantly more resources.

But beyond his coaching success and recruiting prowess, the one thing I don’t think he gets enough credit for is as a “program builder.” Remember that when Mack took over as head coach at Xavier in 2009, the Musketeers were in the Atlantic 10, a spot where they weren’t quite a “mid-major” but not quite a “power conference team” either. And when Xavier joined the Big East five seasons ago, many wondered whether or not there would be a dip. After all, they were facing better competition, in a tougher league with more established programs at the time.

That’s also why I believe that what Mack did these last few years is a bit underappreciated if anything. Instead of taking a step back once they got to the Big East, Xavier actually got better, as Mack slowly built them into the second-best program in the entire league behind Villanova. Over the last three years Xavier finished second in the Big East in 2016 and won the league outright this year. And while everyone will look at a “down” year in 2017, when the Musketeers finished seventh in the league, remember that they were ranked in the Top 10 for most of November and December before a slew of injuries crippled them mid-season. Despite it, they still bounced back to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, advancing all the way to the Elite Eight.

But more than all the tangible things about Mack, there is one intangible thing that can’t be emphasized enough when it comes to this hire.

Hmm, how do I put this nicely…



Alright, I’ll just say it: HE’S NOT RICK PITINO.

If anything, he’s basically the exact opposite of Pitino. He’s younger (though balder), with a staggering amount of success, but also zero baggage. More importantly, he’s not a smug, egotistical or full of himself either (nor does he use hookers to get recruits to visit campus – at least that we know of). Instead, he’s the opposite, loose, fun and for the most part easy-going. He’s the kind of guy who jokes with the media. The kind of guy who posts pictures of his kids on Twitter. The kind of guy that is, call me crazy here, but “likeable.”

Again, he’s the anti-Pitino. And whether you love Louisville, or – like most reading this article – hate them, that’s still a good thing for Louisville and their rivalry with Kentucky. Obviously it’s no secret that the hate will always be strong in the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry, but with Mack, there should now be a healthy respect. He’s the kind of guy that you want to beat because you hate his school and know he’s good, not because you’re genuinely repulsed every time his face is shown on TV. It’s the same on the national scale. Having Louisville basketball be successful is a good thing for college basketball. It’s good for TV ratings, good for the ACC, and good for the city as a whole. You know what’s not good? Having them be a national punch-line like they’ve been for so many years.

Now to the final question with Mack: “How good will he be?” Well, only time will tell. As mentioned above, he’s done quite a bit in nine years as a head coach, but the one thing he hasn’t done is had deep NCAA Tournament success. Ultimately that’s how he’ll be judged, especially when it comes to the guys he’s going up against in the ACC and with John Calipari in-state. So yes, Chris Mack still has something to prove. But in the end, if the only knock on a coach is that – less than a decade into his career – he hasn’t made a Final Four or won a national championship, there are a lot of coaches who don’t meet that threshold.

But as for everything else? Mack is a home run.

Tuesday was obviously a good day for Louisville.

But it was a good day for college basketball too.

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at [email protected] He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

28 Comments for Chris Mack to Louisville is good for the Kentucky rivalry and good for college basketball

  1. jstrunk
    9:19 pm March 27, 2018 Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more. Love or hate Louisville this was a good hire and will be great for the UK/UL rivalry! Anyone that has the support of Bill Murray must be ok!!!

    Also thanks Aaron for the podcasts, they make my 430am commute less terrible in the mornings! Keep sweeping the nation!

  2. Bobbum Man
    9:28 pm March 27, 2018 Permalink

    But can he get hookers tho?

    • RickE
      11:19 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

      Damn straight he can. Thug ball always brings the hos out.

  3. Duuuuuude
    9:40 pm March 27, 2018 Permalink

    Picture Terry Meiners on the baseline.

    10:37 pm March 27, 2018 Permalink

    He likes cheap, underage prostitutes obviously. Mack doesn’t advance in the tournament, but likes ugly whores. Welcome.

  5. UKinIN
    12:18 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    Right now this only matters once a year. If Mack can recruit with UK that’s another story.

    • RickE
      11:22 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

      He’s never been able to recruit before. There is only way to recruit players to Louisville. And, every coach that has ever won anything there has used that method. A blank checkbook.

  6. Rick_S
    12:30 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    80 losses in 7 years..he will be a bust

    • Jiminy Crickets
      8:25 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

      Agree. They mention his success as “won 20 games….”. Back when teams played a max of 32 (including tournament) that was an accomplishment. In today’s 35-40 game seasons, if your not winning 25 games you’re not successful. In 9 years at Xavior, he won at least 25 games 3 times, and one of those was his first year when he inherited an A10 champion roster from Sean Miller.

  7. blueballs80
    12:55 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    He is a steady coach and a family person. Will he bring the same intensity for the UK/UL rivalry is still yet to be determined? He seems like he will bring competitiveness with a sense of decency IMHO.

  8. John Henry
    7:13 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    What would be good for college basketball would be Louisville getting the death penalty. This would show college basketball is serious about cheating and sleeze in the college game. Louisville has been a disgrace to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Time to pay for it.

    • RealCatsFan
      7:32 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

      Actually, what would REALLY be good for college basketball would be for duke and UNCheat to finally get the punishment they deserve for all the cheating they have gotten away with over the years. But that will not happen as long as the current power structure is in place.

    • John Henry
      9:59 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

      I certainly agree about UNC and Duke. UNC should have been shut down but we both know these two programs are favored and have powerful alumni. They are the untouchables. Even so, UL needs to pay for their transgressions for allowing Pitino to disregard the rules of basketball and society. Hammer them., I have no mercy on the Cardinals. .

    • Luether
      7:27 pm March 28, 2018 Permalink

      A bit harsh don’t you think?

    • UK Big Board Update
      3:55 pm March 29, 2018 Permalink

      U mad, Luether? LOL

  9. Jiminy Crickets
    8:17 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    Mark took over for a Miller team that had won three straight A10 conference titles, his first two years were fairly similar Lee successful, but his third year in the A10 he finished 6th. He then went on to lead Xavier to five double digit loss seasons out of the next 6 years. He is 1-10 against the only competition in the big East (Nova) and has average margin of defeat at 18ppg.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      8:21 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

      He took over a conference champion and had 96 losses over his 9 years there. (10.7 losses per year).

  10. Jiminy Crickets
    8:18 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    Mack, not mark

  11. secrick
    8:45 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    If you think all the card fans wanted this guy then you are crazy, most did not want him.

    • Smyrna_Cat
      9:23 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

      Who did they want? Mack Daddy seems to be a good fit.

    10:40 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    If it had not been for UMBC, Mack would have the biggest upset in this year’s tournament. He’s gonna work out fine for me, way over paid, in way over his head, and will have a big payout when the fire him.

  13. loservilletard
    11:02 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    its easy to run up your record against inferior competition. We’ll see what he has in the ACC. Anything is better that Pitino….

  14. RickE
    11:36 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    He better be a good liar. That’s what it takes to succeed at Louisville.

  15. Le Docteur
    11:44 am March 28, 2018 Permalink

    What happens when a good man takes a lot of money from bad people? What happens when a guy with professional morals and scruples takes a lot of money to coach a team at a University distinguished by immorality and unscrupulous practices? Does he clean up the place or does the place “dirty him up?” Let’s ask Steve Kragthorpe: “When you sent all the bad guy football players packing, and lost games, how’d that work out for you?”

  16. jaws2
    4:57 pm March 28, 2018 Permalink

    He and Cronin were made for one another. Thuggery at it’s best. He’ll fit in great at uOFsmell.

  17. 57nukeduke
    5:52 pm March 28, 2018 Permalink

    Louisville 323rd coach in less than a year, we will see.

  18. 57nukeduke
    5:52 pm March 28, 2018 Permalink


  19. Luether
    6:49 pm March 28, 2018 Permalink

    Aaron, thanks for another insightful, excellent post…