MOVE ON!!...MOVE UP!! PART 7!!!
Andy Mac Williams,
The preceding links reference pieces I wrote following Thad Matta's departure to Ohio State and Sean Miller's hiring at Xavier in 2004 and Miller's exit to Arizona and Chris Mack's promotion to Muskie head coach in 2009. Today we are dealing with Mack's leaving for Louisville and the process of replacing him at Xavier. Names change. Details may differ some, but it's the same story. Xavier basketball prospers under a previously unproven coach. He has uncommon leverage and/or unquenchable ambition. Coach leaves and is replaced from within (3 times from in-house and hopefully soon to be a 4th) and twice from outside. The coaches hired have all advanced the basketball program's profile and production on the floor-graduated players and left XU hoops in a better place than when they arrived.
This process is unusual in college basketball. Usually when the coach departs for perceived greener pastures, he takes players with him or leaves the cupboard bare or forgets to recruit and his old school experiences a set back or in some cases basketball nuclear winter. Not at Xavier!
Not since Bob Staak started the long line of prosperity in 1979. Staak begot Gillen leading to Prosser giving way to Matta opening the door for Miller ushering in Mack delivering us to the Spring of 2018 and the next step in the right direction.
I'm sorry to see Chris leave. His 9 years were populated with 215 wins (a Xavier record)-8 NCAA bids-11 NCAA victories-4 NCAA Sweet 16s and 1 Elite 8. Chris won in the A-10 and the BIG EAST. He beat UC 6 times in 9 tries(more wins in the Shootout than any Muskie coach).Mack gave us Holloway and Stainbrook and Bluiett and J.P. and Dee Davis and "Q" and Malcolm and clever tweets and honest quotes and he gave me all the access to his program I ever asked for. I wish him well.
But, I'm good with his leaving. Xavier made a bold comprehensive effort to retain him (basically a lifetime contract at terrific money). Mack apparently wanted the ACC as Skip Prosser had when he took the Wake Forest job.
U of L basketball is top dog in that city with a 22,000 seat arena (although the Cards will always be #2 in the Commonwealth to BIG BLUE Nation). I luv you and I luv the cats!! I'll hang up and listen!!!
Mack had all the leverage. U of L had to pay above scale in terms of dollars and term of contract because of their precarious NCAA situation(current probation-pending fall-out from the FBI mess-lack of institutional control-maybe a lack of moral fiber??). Ethics and U of L seem to be mutually exclusive. Louisville was desperate and dateless after nuking Rick Pitino.
Chris Mack brings them a new lease on respectability. He will not cheat. He will work hard. He may have the time to navigate any and all NCAA landmines and win enough to please the fan base. I hope he beats UK because those guys are really arrogant.
WHERE DOES XAVIER GO FROM HERE??
AD Greg Christopher is leading the search so I'm confident he'll consult history-survey the options quickly but diligently and make the correct choice. We need a new leader ASAP and IMHO he's already vetted and on the payroll(Travis Steele). It's the safe hire because we know what we are getting after 10 years of good works. It's also the smart hire because Travis is ready for the first chair and he checks all the boxes basketball-wise and as XU Hoops CEO.
Continuity is a good thing. All the current scholarship players support Steele and there's a good chance the 3 2018 commits will matriculate. Travis will actively pursue other options already underway to complete the roster(grad transfers-JUCOS-regular transfers-uncommitted Class of 2018 incoming Frosh).
There are a lot of similarities between Steele and Brad Stevens from their Indiana and Butler roots to their boundless energy and multi-level coaching experience. Hiring Steele may not rock the room at the introductory press conference ,but who cares? I'd rather have substance over sizzle, win on the floor and keep the Xavier mojo motoring.
Hiring qualified home grown candidates has worked before. It's the Muskie template for success.
The prevailing public sentiment is that Xavier basketball has suffered a major hit with Chris Mack's departure to Louisville. I do not accept that premise. Neither would Travis Steele. He would not use "first time head coach" or "I'm new to the job" as cover or an excuse for lowering expectations. He might experience some miss steps and dead ends, but he'd find a way to get better or keel over trying.