CRAWFORD | Way back with Mack: New Louisville staff knows head coach well
Louisville coach Chris Mack got something he badly needed in assembling his first Cardinal coaching staff: A familiarity with how he likes to do things.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Given the task ahead of him at the University of Louisville, new Cardinals’ coach Chris Mack needed many things from his new coaching staff, but perhaps one thing above all else.
Mack wanted familiarity with his way of doing things. He wanted coaches who were of like mind, and who already are knowledgeable about and in concert with the things he wants to accomplish and he he wants to go about them.
In Mike Pegues and Luke Murray, who have spent years with him at Xavier, and Dino Gaudio, who coached him at Xavier, coached with him at Wake Forest and who has been his friend for many years, Mack accomplished that, and then some.
The four appeared at a news conference on Monday to talk about the job ahead of them.
“I’m really excited about the group of guys that will be helping us rebrand Louisville basketball and get it where it needs to go,” Mack said. “. . . The familiarity I have with each one of them, from my experiences with them both as a player, with Dino, and having Mike and Luke with me on my past Xavier staffs, I don’t have to coach the coaches. I don’t have the teach the drills. They don’t have to figure out what’s important to coach Mack. I want to spend time coaching my team and getting my players better and learning you (media) and learning Louisville, and not coaching my assistant coaches. . . . When you know those guys as well as I do, it makes it much easier with the transition.”
Mack lifted Gaudio out of the media ranks, where he was an analyst for ESPN for eight years. Gaudio’s last experience in coaching wasn’t a bad one. He had a team that was finished second in the ACC but lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2007-08, and a year later won 20 games before running into John Calipari’s first Kentucky team in the second round. He was dismissed after that with the explanation that he wasn’t making progress in the NCAA Tournament.
Wake Forest hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since his departure.
“I dabbled with coming back,” Gaudio said. “Every October, (Seth) Greenburg, (Fran) Fraschilla and I call each other and just commiserate, because we don’t have a team, we don’t have a staff. When you don’t have that camaraderie, you really miss it. I had a couple of opportunities in the past, to come back, and I’ve had a couple of head-coaching opportunities. It just wasn’t the right situation. . . . But with Chris Mack, I’m turning over my career and my family and putting it in Chris Mack’s hands, because I trust him. That was a big reason why. It had to be somebody I could trust with my career and my family’s future, and I’ve known him for 28 years.”
Gaudio has the added bonus of having broadcast a handful of U of L games last season, including their first-round victory in the National Invitation Tournament. He said he’s been impressed with both the fans and the facilities on his visits to Louisville, and never more than the NIT game.
“I thought for sure when I came for the NIT, they didn’t get in the tournament, we all saw what happened against UVa, I thought, this place is going to be death,” Gaudio said. “I saw that first NIT game and I was shocked. Great place. National champions here, all the facilities, all the people involved. I think it’s special.”
Mack said he’ll lean of Pegues to coach the big men. He said that he appreciates the grounding in the game that Pegues got from legendary DeMatha High School coach Morgan Wooten before becoming the all-time leading scorer at Delaware as an undersized power forward.
“Mike has the gift of teaching basketball, specifically post players,” Mack said. “He’s going to be a Godsend for guys like Malik Williams, Steven Enoch, all our big guys really.”
Pegues said he followed Mack to Louisville because he is looking forward to coaching in the ACC, and because he believes in what Mack is doing.
“I believe in Chris Mack and his methodology and how he goes about things and the energy that he brings on a day-to-day basis,” Pegues said. “To see a guy, nearly 50, have more energy than 18-and 19-year old kids on an everyday basis in everything that we do, that’s phenomenal to watch. He’s ever-teaching, even when he’s beet-red and intense and getting after guys, he’s teaching. That’s huge. Because I’ve been around some of the great teachers in this game in Morgan Wooten and Mike Brey, and I believe in what he does.”
Luke Murray, Mack said, will work with perimeter players and coordinate recruiting efforts. Mack said he appreciates Murray’s attention to detail and his work ethic. And he likes the relationships he builds with players.
“As hard as it was for me to leave Xavier, it was equally as hard for Coach Murray, because of the time he spent away from the court with our players. And I quickly have noticed he’s already started to build those relationships here with our guys.”
Murray said as much as hitting the road to figure out recruiting has been a priority, getting to know the players already on the roster as been just as important. With the exception of Ray Spalding and Deng Adel, who will declare early for the NBA Draft, every other Louisville player who is eligible to return is expected to be back.
Murray said the staff has focused on, “just trying to be genuine and get a sense for who they are off the court. We have somewhat of an understanding of who they are as players, from watching them play in the summer or during the season. But for myself and Dino and Mike and coach Mack, though I don’t want to speak for him, it’s been more about getting a sense for who these guys are off the court, spend some time with them around the dorm or here in the Yum! Center and really just try to strengthen those bonds as best we can, even though it’s only been a week or two. . . . I think for the most part these guys are really excited about what lies ahead. Being coached by Coach Mack is something that excites them. A couple of guys may have been unsure, but they were pretty quick to come on board.”
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