Louisville is in the market for a new head basketball coach after parting ways with interim head coach David Padgett on Wednesday. Now it’s time for the school to embark on its first true coaching search since it hired Rick Pitino in 2001.
So what does the Louisville job offer? Well, there’s a rabid fan base with high expectations, a basketball-first mentality and a 22,090-seat arena that’s relatively new (built in 2010). There’s also the tradition of
three two national championships and 10 eight trips to the Final Four.
There’s also the tiny fact that the NCAA will likely be parked just outside the KFC Yum! Center for the foreseeable future, as the specter of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball hovers over the program.
With all of that out of the way, here’s a look at six candidates who could wind up being in the mix for the job.
Chris Mack, Xavier
This where this search will almost certainly begin, and also might end. Despite a striking resemblance to Dobby the house-elf, Chris Mack can actually coach. He has made Xavier a legitimate national power during his nine years on campus.
While his team’s unceremonious exit before the Sweet 16 of the 2018 NCAA Tournament is a black mark on his resume, he led the Musketeers to a 29-6 record, a Big East tile and a No. 1 seed this year.
Mack has taken Xavier to the NCAA Tournament in five straight seasons and eight of the nine years he’s been there. He has won three conference titles at Xavier (two in the Atlantic 10), while amassing a 212-96 record, good enough for a .688 winning percentage.
The question for Mack will be whether or not he actually wants to move on from his alma mater. He grew up in Cincinnati, played at Xavier from 1991-93 and had two stints as an assistant coach at the school (1999-2001 and 2004-2009). The pull of home can often be too much to overcome.
Mack is 48, so it’s not like he’s a super young up-and-comer who would jump at any opportunity for a big job. With the NCAA hanging around Louisville, maybe this isn’t the time to make that leap. That said, it’s a plum job (without the NCAA issues), at a basketball-first school, in a basketball-mad state. And his brand of tough, rugged basketball would go over well there. He’ll almost certainly get an offer, the question is whether or not he’ll take it.
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Like Mack, Mick Cronin just had a disappointing exit from the tournament, is a native of Cincinnati and is coach at his alma mater. So, yeah he’s in pretty much the exact situation as Xavier’s coach.
Cronin just finished his 12th season at Cincinnati, and has posted a remarkable record. He’s 268-140 (.657) during his time there with two American Athletic Conference titles, and eight straight NCAA Tournament trips.
Cronin also has connections to Louisville. He was an assistant there under Rick Pitino from 2001-2003, then left to be the head coach at Murray State. He won two Ohio Valley Conference titles at Murray State before taking the Cincinnati job.
Cronin has been mentioned for big jobs before, but Louisville might be too good for the 46-year-old to pass up. He can recruit, has posted consistent success, had his team ranked fifth overall on KenPom this season, and has consistently had it ranked in the top 20 in defensive efficiency. The Bearcats also posted a 31-5 record this season and over the past two years they have gone a combined mark of 61-11. That’s a ton of success.