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The End of an Era: Chris Mack named the next head coach of the Louisville Cardinals

Mack leaves Xavier in as good of a place as you could find.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Xavier vs Texas Southern Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The mounting speculation has finally drawn to a close. Chris Mack will be the next head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. Reports circulated that the deal is worth $28 million over 7 years according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

Nine seasons, 215 victories, eight NCAA Tournament appearances, and a Big East regular-season championship. Those are just some of the things that Chris Mack accomplished as head coach of the Xavier Musketeers. Mack, a Xavier alum, assumed the head coaching role at Xavier in the 2009-10 season after the departure of now Arizona head coach Sean Miller. Previously, he was an assistant coach on the Xavier staff.

This season, Mack led the Xavier basketball program to arguably its best year yet. He was named the Big East Conference Coach of the Year after claiming sole possession of the Big East regular-season title. He also became Xavier’s all-time winningest coach, surpassing Xavier great Pete Gillen with his 203rd career victory on Jan. 18 at home against St. John’s.

Unquestionably, he marked X as the spot to be and the prominence that the Musketeers program achieved during his coaching tenure played a key role in Xavier’s transition into the Big East prior to the 2013-14 season.

Mack now takes the reigns of a Louisville basketball program that is historically among the elite in the nation. Under longtime head coach Rick Pitino, the Cardinals achieved a torrent of success on the hardwood, most notably with its 2012-13 National Championship.

The Louisville program on the rise was upended after a tumultuous flurry of allegations hit the school in 2016 when the NCAA unearthed an illegal recruiting scandal involving the use of escorts. As a result of the scandal, the championship was vacated by the NCAA. Just a year later, the program saw even more overhaul amidst an FBI probe that involved bribery and corruption between one of the school’s top recruits Brian Bowen, and Louisville’s athletic sponsor, Adidas. Engulfed in a wave of scrutiny, Louisville fired Pitino and out the door along with him went athletic director Tom Jurich in the middle of this season. David Padgett was named the interim head coach but was not retained in the same capacity, while interim athletic director Vince Tyra was given a more permanent position.

Mack will now look to bring the winning and respectful basketball tradition back to Louisville after the Cardinals were banned from postseason play by the NCAA after the discovery of the illegal recruiting scandal.

After nearly a decade of head coaching stability, the Musketeers will now look to replace Chris Mack. The Xavier head coaching job has long been considered a “stepping stone” job, but it could have perhaps been a legacy position for Mack had he not left the school.

As far as looking internally, head associate coach Travis Steele is certainly in the running. He has spent the last nine seasons as part of the Xavier staff and is highly regarded as one of the program’s top recruiters. Per a Jon Rothstein report, assistant coaches Luke Murray and Mike Pegues are expected to join Mack in Louisville.

Looking on the outside, some potential candidates who could take over as the next Xavier head coach may be Northern Kentucky’s head coach John Brannen, who helped lead the Norse to a Horizon League Tournament championship in 2016-17 and a regular season title this season. Thad Matta, a former Xavier head coach himself between 2001-04, has been retired from coaching since last year and has supposedly inquired about getting back into coaching. He was most recently the head coach of an Ohio State Buckeyes program that was tournament runner-up in 2007.

Xavier now has to search for its next head coach, but for the time being its the end of the Chris Mack era—a time marked by a rise to prominence evolving Xavier into a nationally ranked program. Mack was instrumental in taking the program to the next level and as a result, the Xavier heading coaching job will now be considered one of the most coveted positions in all of college basketball.