It’s been a wild ride. Think of the Louisville fan the last two years as a dandelion in the midst of a Hurricane. We’ve either been one of two things: 1) Flying high in the sky, painfully, unaware of the tragedy that lies beneath us. 2) Dead, decrepit on the ground as ferocious winds continue to beat down on us.; there has been no in-between. Today, the storm has ended, the sky has cleared, and a new day has dawned.
We can argue relentlessly about whether Mack is the right hire for Louisville. We can argue profusely about whether Mack will be able to have more success at Louisville. He hasn’t been to a Final Four at Xavier. While that’s okay in Cincinnati, it’s not okay in Louisville — we know that. Only time will tell whether that changes. Arguing this is fruitless. Tangible results will soon make this as mute as a mime.
What’s pretty difficult to argue?
Two simple things: Athletic Director Vince Tyra got his man. That man was the top, viable candidate for the job. It that’s not a concrete fact, it’s at least one built upon a brick foundation.
Let’s pause for just a moment: It’s important to remember everything that Louisville has done the past three days. After months of discontent by the fanbase — things are beginning to stabilize. The Board of Trustees, along with interim President Greg Postel have had their missteps. Yet when they needed to come through the most, they did just that. Along with a coach, they made a simple hire in Athletic Director Vince Tyra. A savvy businessman that may lack experience in the role, but understands the importance of athletics and education. He understands that one shouldn’t depend on the other to move forward. More importantly, that there are proactive ways to move both forward. Suffice to say, this wasn’t always the case with the previous leadership. For the first time in a long time, there is a consensus of confidence growing in the decision makers of the University. For a while, donors had taken a “wait and see” approach to Louisville. After all, after so much turnover, who could blame them? The level to which faith has been restored in this group will be shown with donations, and at this moment, that appears to be moving in a positive direction.
Now, back to Chris Mack.
We must be careful to compare the two administrators of the previous Athletic Director Tom Jurich and the current one of Vince Tyra — it’s wasteful and it doesn’t really mean much anymore. It’s as fruitless as an effort as comparing Lebron James to Michael Jordan. And, in some situations, Vince Tyra may not take it as a compliment to be compared to Tom Jurich (no matter what his followers may tell you). However, at least initially, some scale of the situation may be of use so it needs pointing out: This is the same hire that Tom Jurich would have made. He would have gone after and hired the top guy for the job.
Let’s address a few more things shall we? Three names that for whatever reason have been brought up by some fans.
1) Louisville was never getting Billy Donovan. In the same situation, Tom Jurich wouldn’t have either. Let me grant you that the Donovon having Oklahoma City in contention to contend in the West wouldn’t be a factor. I’ll focus on something else. Rick Pitino is no longer with the Louisville Basketball program. Still, seemingly he uses every public moment to perpetuate how much hurt those that surround the University has caused him. At worst, Pitino was Donovon’s closest mentor. At best, he was a second father. Don’t believe me? Believe his words.
“I wouldn’t be standing where I am today without coach Pitino, the investment he made in my life, the values and things that he taught me,” Donovon told the media.
That doesn’t sound like a guy that would abandon that loyalty and that love for a former coach to take a lateral job.
2) Louisville was never getting Jay Wright. Jay Wright didn’t leave for Kentucky in 2007. Jay Wright didn’t leave for the 76ers in 2009. The Villanova coach isn’t leaving for a situation that still has a great bit of uncertainty at Louisville, in the Year of Lord, 2018. It’s not going to happen. If you can’t see that, I can’t help you and I’ve already wasted too much time addressing it.
3) Louisville is better than Kentucky Assistant Coach Kenny Payne. Sorry, not sorry. You come to Louisville as an established Head Coach who is ready to take the final leap of his career and coach at the same place for the rest of his career. You don’t come to Louisville to learn on the job. By all indications, Kenny Payne will somebody be a good or possibly even great head coach. Right now, we don’t know that. Louisville doesn’t need to guess.
Again, another time, for the people who came in late to the sermon and are sitting in the back: That top guy is Chris Mack.
He struck a pristine tone in his introductory press conference, one that everyone needed to hear. Mack was honest in his answers. He spoke of things such as a players-first program and how there “were no different eras with Louisville Basketball”. Previous Head Coach Rick Pitino did the exact opposite. Pitino alienated a sector of the fan-base from previous eras. He also spoke of the program being Louisville First. Louisville needed some of that then, but right now they need what Chris Mack is offering.
“They say the darkest clouds elicit the brightest lightning bolts. Those lightning bolts are coming,” Mack said to a crowd that filled the brims of the Yum! Center Spirit room.
There may be a difficult road ahead. I think we are all aware of Louisville’s trials and tribulations, those don’t disappear nor do their punishments. But after hearing Mack’s quiet confidence in full-effect and reading his accomplishments at Xavier, it’s easy to be optimistic. If you need reaffirmation, I’m afraid my words won’t measure up to Chris Mack’s on Wednesday afternoon. Do yourself a favor, find the press conference, watch it, and begin to dream of better days again — they are coming.
The last two years have been filled with a lot of things that weren’t Louisville Basketball. Today is the start of getting back to what Louisville Basketball is.
Top Photo: Joe Robbins, Getty Images