LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Louisville has found its new men’s basketball coach, tapping Xavier’s Chris Mack to guide the program back to national contention after a turbulent season in which the Cardinals were linked to a federal investigation and eventually missed the NCAA Tournament.
Multiple reports say that school has hired Mack and a person familiar with the situation confirmed Mack is Louisville’s choice. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the hire has not been publicly announced.
Louisville’s Athletic Association must approve all contracts and has called a Wednesday meeting about a personnel matter, but did not specify whether it was about coaching vacancy.
Louisville spokesman John Karman said in a statement that reports about Mack’s hiring are premature. “There is no contract. The appropriate boards have not yet met to consider a contract. Nor are the board members aware of any terms in a potential contract.”
At this point, Mack’s hiring appears to have to through the procedural formality of being approved by the ULAA and the school’s board of trustees before becoming official.
Mack led the Musketeers to a 29-6 record and the school’s first-ever No. 1 tournament seeding this season but was upset in the second round by Florida State. He was 215-97 in nine seasons at his alma mater with eight NCAA Tournament appearances and a trip to last year’s Elite Eight.
Mack, 48, said in a tweet Tuesday that “this situation offered a new and unique challenge that I could not turn down .” He did not mention Louisville.
However, Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher tweeted a statement thanking Mack for his work at the school and wished him “all the best.”
“Chris is more than our all-time winningest coach,” Christopher said. “He will always be a Musketeer.”
The Cleveland native takes over for David Padgett, who went 22-14 last season as Louisville’s interim coach after the school fired Rick Pitino in the wake of a federal corruption investigation of college basketball.
Mack’s name surfaced as Louisville’s choice in recent days, though newly-hired athletic director Vince Tyra didn’t elaborate Monday on potential candidates. He will become Louisville’s third coach in a year following Pitino’s firing last October and Padgett’s promotion from second-year assistant. The school parted ways with Padgett last Wednesday after the Cardinals’ quarterfinals exit from the NIT.
Mack’s immediate issue is luring recruits to Louisville after the program failed to sign prospects during last fall’s early period in the investigation’s aftermath. That signing period runs April 11 through May 16 for NCAA Division I schools.
Louisville junior forwards Ray Spalding and Deng Adel are expected to work out for NBA clubs before deciding whether to stay in the draft pool or return for their senior seasons. Mack would surely welcome either one of them back to a roster that likely returns sophomore guard V.J. King and freshmen Dwayne Sutton and Jordan Nwora.
Mack’s main goal is getting the Cardinals back into the NCAA Tournament after missing this year’s Big Dance.
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