LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville hired Chris Mack as head coach of its men’s basketball team on Wednesday, a move that brings stability to a program tarnished by multiple scandals and facing potential fallout from a nationwide recruiting investigation that has rocked college basketball.
Mack, 48, coached Xavier University from 2009 until this year and becomes just the fifth full-time coach at Louisville since 1944.
The Louisville board of trustees approved hiring Mack during a meeting at the KFC Yum! Center. At a press conference, the new coach acknowledged that the past few months have been a difficult time for U of L, but said: "It's time to turn the page and build something special once again."
Mack insisted that he will make Louisville his "final stop" in coaching and said he talked to former U of L coach Rick Pitino twice before taking the job. Pitino, Mack said, had "nothing but good things" to say about the city of Louisville and the current players.
Mack will be paid $4 million annually under a seven-year deal that also includes incentives and a possible pay increase, U of L Athletics Director Vince Tyra said. The contract includes a $6 million buyout.
Tyra said if Louisville were to receive probation from the NCAA at any point, Mack's contract would automatically extend for as many years as the probation entails. His buyout, however, would not be affected.
Conversely, if Mack were to have any NCAA issues, "then we have right for termination on that," Tyra added.
Tyra said he interviewed other candidates for the job but would not identify them or say how many.
Mack led the Musketeers to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament this season. He compiled a 212-96 record in nine years at Xavier, leading it to the NCAA tournament in all but one of those seasons.
He succeeds David Padgett, who served as the Cardinals’ interim coach during the recently completed season, and replaces Hall of Fame coach Pitino, who was fired last fall after U of L was linked to a federal recruiting probe.
Mack is just the third permanent coach hired by Louisville since 1971, when Denny Crum replaced John Dromo. Pitino was hired when Crum, a Hall of Fame coach who won national titles in 1980 and 1986, retired in 2001.
The hire is the first major action by Tyra, who was officially hired as athletics director on Monday.
"When the opportunity came, it was one I felt like I couldn't pass up," Mack said.
Mack, who played basketball at Xavier in the 1990s and became an assistant coach in 2004, tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the decision to leave the school “has been one of the toughest of my life.”
“No other opportunity has ever felt ‘right,’ until now,” Mack wrote in a letter posted on Twitter to “Xavier Nation.” “Ultimately, I felt like this situation offered a new and unique challenge that I could not turn down.”
The challenges will be immense, starting with recruiting for a school on probation, and trying to keep a roster recruited by Pitino. But after the announcement, freshman Malik Williams said he plans to remain, and freshmen Jordan Nwora and Darius Perry indicated they would stay as well.
Last month, the NCAA ordered U of L to vacate its 2013 men’s basketball championship and strike years of wins and player statistics from officials records, a historic punishment for a scandal involving a basketball staffer hiring prostitutes and strippers for players and recruits from 2010-2014.
In addition, federal investigators have linked the program to a scheme to pay recruits. A criminal indictment claims that at least one Louisville coach took part in a plan to send money from apparel company Adidas, which supplies gear to U of L, to prospective players.
There's plenty to unpack surrounding the announcement. But exactly who is Louisville's newest head coach? Here are five facts about Mack:
Mack and his wife Christi have three children: 12-year-old Hailee, 11-year-old Lainee and 3-year-old Brayden.
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