BOZICH | Louisville basketball update: Tyra, Mack, Payne
Vince Tyra was named Louisville's athletics director Monday. He said he wants the school's next basketball coach on board at the Final Four in San Antonio this weekend.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Louisville stretched the final discussion on the school’s new athletics director over three hours of deliberation Monday, followed by about an hour of media questions and answers.
There was no surprise ending: Vince Tyra is the new athletics director, Chris Mack of Xavier has a Secretariat-like lead for the job as the Cardinals’ next head basketball coach, and the candidacy of former Louisville star Kenny Payne is not finished ... yet.
The school took the interim term off Tyra’s title by awarding him a five-year contract that will be worth at least $850,000 per year with the opportunity to earn another $150,000 in bonuses.
They made a solid and prudent decision.
Tyra was thrilled to get the job, energized by the challenge and thoughtful while patiently answering questions.
One thing perturbed him: The process robbed Tyra of at least two hours of work he had planned for the first and most important decision he will make as the Louisville AD.
That would be hiring his men’s basketball coach.
Tyra said his plan is to have his guy in place by this weekend so Rick Pitino’s replacement can make the rounds dressed in red Cardinal gear for the essential national media stops in San Antonio at the men’s Final Four.
In the world of public relations, that’s called changing the narrative. Louisville has needed to change the narrative around the school’s signature program after more than 2 1/2 years of scandal and nonsense.
All the chatter remains focused on Mack, except for one source who told me that Tyra called Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart on Monday morning to discuss UK assistant coach Kenny Payne, a former Louisville star who has the support from a group of former Cardinal players.
Mack appears to be a tap-in putt. Payne’s candidacy sits on the outer fringe of the green, likely as a candidate that Tyra will consider if discussions with Mack falter.
In other words, as ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale told me Saturday, the job will go to Mack “if he wants it.”
Last week, Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty wrote that he expected Mack to stay at Xavier, the coach’s alma mater. On Monday, Daugherty shifted his position, conceding that Mack was likely bound for Louisville.
The Atlantic Coast Conference trumps the Big East. The KFC Yum! Center dwarfs the Cintas Center. Louisville has won multiple NCAA championships. Xavier has never been to the Final Four.
Xavier has long been a stepping-stone job. Louisville is one of the 10 best jobs in college basketball. Xavier scrambles for publicity in a market with two professional sports teams and the University of Cincinnati. Louisville is the unquestioned alpha in this town.
Louisville has the revenue and the motivation to pay considerably more than Xavier can pay Mack. According to the USA Today salary data base, Mack earned $1.67 million this season, a sum that ranked 55th in the nation. Expect Louisville to offer at least double that package.
Tyra knows all that and more. He proved his ability to put deals together during a successful career in private equity.
One of the more revealing things that Tyra said during his press conference Monday was that he had progressed to a point in his professional life where he was positioned to work less, not more.
Now Tyra will do more and do it with enthusiasm and persistence, while doing it at reasonable salary that is considerably less than Tom Jurich earned. U of L interim President Dr. Greg Postel said the package will put Tyra around the 50 percentile for athletic directors in Power Five schools.
Few people were as gaga about the Louisville job as Tyra was. The search firm that Louisville hired to lead the process identified 50 potential candidates, but a source said more than 40 of them were not interested.
Who could blame them? Not because of the money, facilities or conference affiliation.
Why leave a solid job for a school that has been stained by scandal, that pushed out a popular men’s basketball coach and athletic director and that has a fan base still fussing about the wisdom and fairness of those decisions?
Tyra understands all that and still wanted the job.
He wanted it while understanding that he has considerable work to do: keeping Louisville’s impressive stable of head coaches in town, rallying fans, getting donors to open their checkbooks, completing the expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium and maintaining the facilities Louisville already has in place.
But first Tyra needs to hire a men’s basketball coach. On Monday, looked like a man ready to make his call.
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