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Louisville Basketball Hires Chris Mack As Head Coach

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One of the worst kept secrets in college basketball has finally come true. Chris Mack has been named the head coach of Louisville, a job he has been linked to for a little over a year or so now. This was an interesting coaching search to watch and quite honestly I’m surprised that Louisville was able to get Mack so easily. The reason I say that is because with sanctions possibly looming over the program it could scare away coaches and Mack would always be there. You could let someone else handle the next few years and then take over once the sanctions are over. However, with the contract being 7  years and $4 million per you can see why he took the job.

Now, before takes start flowing, it’s worth noting that Louisville is known as a top-10 job regardless of these sanctions by most in the college basketball world. It’s somewhere behind the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, UNC and Duke while being mixed in around the likes of Indiana, Arizona, Texas and Ohio State. The downside to the Louisville job – outside of possible sanctions – is being the second biggest program in the state behind Kentucky, but there’s enough in terms of money, Adidas relationship, facilities and fan base to make up for it. That, along with the fact that Mack’s wife is from Louisville, is all part of the reason as to why he’d take this job now.

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So let’s talk about Mack. Who is Louisville getting? Well, for starters, the Cardinals are getting a guy who pretty much all call a top-15 coach in America. He does an excellent job of in-game coaching, with his masterpiece being the Sweet 16 game against Arizona last year. Part of what makes Mack so great is his set plays, most notably out of bounds. He likes to run a variety of out of bounds plays, with different looks. He’ll throw guys in the traditional box set, staggered, cluttered together or a direct line across. He’s never consistent with his call, which makes it tougher to guard against. The one thing Mack will do is use a bunch of screens no matter what set he’s in. He likes his shooters running off of screens and will use a variety of screens to get them open.

Mack took over Xavier when Sean Miller left for Arizona before the 2009-10 season. In that nine year stretch, Mack went 212-96, becoming Xavier’s all-time winningest coach. Along with that he won three regular season conference titles, including this year’s Big East title. He also went to the NCAA Tournament eight of the nine years, with 3 trips to the Sweet 16 and a trip to the Elite Eight.

Something to watch with this move is how Mack recruits at Xavier. He tended to recruit big guards and wings at Xavier and looked to the grad transfer market at times for a big man. He was always a pretty good recruiter, getting the likes of Semaj Christion, Edmond Sumner, Trevon Bluiett, Paul Scruggs among others. He should be successful in still being able to recruit the Indianapolis area and the Cincinnati area, which will still be important to do. Along with this he’ll get the start with a new AD as Louisville promoted Vince Tyra from interim athletic director on Monday. With Tyra getting a five year deal, it should give Mack a sense of security as well to go with his contract.

For Xavier, the list is really just two names. They’ll look at Pat Kelsey and Travis Steele. Kelsey, a former assistant under Mack has been the head coach at Winthrop for the last five years. He famously accepted the UMass job last year before backing out right before the press conference. Steele has been Mack’s assistant for nine years and is known as one of the best recruiters in the area. Steele is the favorite to land the job as of right this moment. The only other two names that could possibly come up would be Ashley Howard, the Villanova assistant who spent time at Xavier and Eric Musselman. Xavier’s track record tends to be hiring someone associated with the program though.

Either way, the ACC just got another top coach to add to the likes of K, Roy, Boeheim, Keatts, Brey, Bennett, Larranaga and Buzz.