By Shelby Brown & Dalton Ray —
U of L introduced former Xavier coach Chris Mack as the new men’s basketball head coach today after yesterday’s informal announcement. Mack signed a seven-year, $28 million contract with U of L after discussions with Athletic Director Vince Tyra and other university officials over the weekend.
The U of L Board of Trustees and athletic association made the official decision today at the KFC Yum! Center.
Mack took the stage with wife and children, thanking Interim President Greg Postel and Athletic Director Vice Tyra for their opening remarks.
Mack said he didn’t want to make promises this early on, but guaranteed U of L would get his very best.
As the men’s basketball team watched from the audience, Mack said there would be no division between the players he recruited and those recruited by Pitino.
“They’re all my guys,” Mack said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the players.”
Mack said his goal for the coming basketball season is a tough, unbreakable team.
When the floor opened for questions, Mack assured reporters he was aware of the scandals in the basketball program’s history.
“I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t believe this place could shine once again,” he said.
Mack acknowledged former head coach Rick Pitino and former interim coach David Padgett. He said he reached out to both of them prior to taking the position.
“I understand I have big shoes to fill,” Mack said of Pitino.
He also addressed Padgett’s work with the team in the shadow of the NCAA investigation.
“He did it with class. He did it with integrity and putting players first,” Mack said.
After the ousting of Pitino, who coached the team for nearly 20 years, administration hired former player Padgett as interim in October 2017. Administration announced Padgett would no longer coach the team March 21.
“I urge you. Fill the Yum. Give these guys a chance. Let’s get this place rocking,” Mack said.
Mack, 48, coached at Xavier from 2009-18, putting together a 212-96 record. The Musketeers made eight NCAA appearances under Mack, reaching the Sweet 16 three times and the Elite Eight once.
This season, Xavier had a record-setting season and earned their first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Their 29 wins is second most in school history, but they were bounced in the second round of the tournament by Florida State.
Xavier’s all-time wins leader has been rumored for multiple major coaching jobs over the past five years.
Louisville’s roster next year has some fans considered with no current members of the 2018 recruiting class. While the expectation is to bring in graduate transfers for this coming season, Mack is hitting the ground running on the roster rebuild. The newly appointed staff has extended scholarships to 14 players in the 2019 class.
Mack said the FBI probe and current state of the program were considered, but the opportunity was too good to pass up. He added that there won’t be a distinction between players.
“Often when a head coach takes over, it becomes coach Pitino’s guys versus coach Mack’s guys … it wasn’t about that,” Mack said on ESPN’s College GameDay. “I wanted the guys to know I chose them.”
The program has faced it’s share of negative publicity recently, but Mack assures fans those days are in the past.
“The darkest clouds elicit the strongest lightning bolts. Those lightning bolts are coming,” Mack said.
Photo by Shelby Brown / The Louisville Cardinal