What to know about Chris Mack and his future with Louisville basketball

·5 min read

In March 2018, then-Louisville athletic director Vince Tyra introduced Chris Mack, who'd had a successful nine-year run at Xavier, as the Cardinals' next head men's basketball coach. Mack was to become just U of L’s third permanent head coach since 1971.

“Welcome to the future of Louisville Cardinal basketball,” Tyra said at the time.

Much has changed since then, however, and Mack is officially out as Louisville coach as of Wednesday evening.

$133,333 a month: What to know about Chris Mack's separation agreement with Louisville

What is Chris Mack’s job status at Louisville?

As of Wednesday evening, Chris Mack is officially out as Louisville men's basketball coach.

Louisville's Board of Trustees and Athletic Association Board met Wednesday at 4 p.m. At that meeting, the school revealed it had reached a separation agreement.

Mack will receive $4.8 million as part of the agreement; he'll be paid $133,333 each month for the next three years.

More: How interim AD Josh Heird will approach the search for Louisville's next basketball coach

Contract: Why did a negotiated settlement make more sense than a firing?

If Louisville had simply fired Mack without cause, it would have cost the school $12.75 million, per interim athletic director Josh Heird.

Alternatively, Louisville could have waited for the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) to confirm alleged Level II NCAA violations on Mack's watch, which would likely have eliminated a buyout. But waiting — for several months — would have left the basketball program at a standstill and stuck in metaphorical quicksand, twiddling its thumbs while it awaits a coach’s termination. That could hurt the program's ability to recruit.

“On one hand, you have $12.75 million at stake if he was let go without cause,” Heird told reporters Wednesday. “… On the flip side, you can consider it zero (dollars), but it’s not zero either. Who knows how long that’s gonna go as far as the NCAA case? I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to bet on the NCAA wrapping up anything quickly.”

By reaching a settlement, Louisville was able to begin its coaching search now without paying Mack the full $12.75 million.

From earlier this month: Sullivan: Negotiated settlement makes more sense than firing U of L’s Chris Mack

Louisville coach Chris Mack discusses a play with Jae'lyn Withers during an exhibition game against Kentucky State, at the YUM Center. Oct. 29, 2021
Louisville coach Chris Mack discusses a play with Jae'lyn Withers during an exhibition game against Kentucky State, at the YUM Center. Oct. 29, 2021

What was Chris Mack's salary?

Mack was earning about $4 million annually, the 11th highest mark in men's college basketball.

How long was Chris Mack at Louisville?

The 2021-22 season marked the fourth year for Chris Mack at Louisville.

Mack was hired in March 2018 after taking Xavier to four Sweet 16s in nine seasons. At the time, Mack said he hoped to retire at Louisville.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” he said.

Why was Chris Mack on the hot seat?

Mack was hired with high expectations, and he took Louisville to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. He then had a strong team in 2020, and those Cardinals, led by Jordan Nwora, were once ranked No. 1 in the country and were contenders for the Sweet 16 and beyond.

However, the pandemic canceled that tournament, and in 2021, U of L finished the season a pedestrian 13-7 and barely missed the NCAA Tournament. Mack did not renew the contracts of assistants Dino Gaudio and Luke Murray following that season, and Gaudio was then federally charged with extortion.

After being fired, Gaudio had threatened to reveal that Louisville had violated NCAA rules in its production of recruiting videos and in its use of graduate assistants in practice — unless he was compensated. Gaudio was later sentenced to a year’s probation and a $10,000 fine.

Before the 2021-22 season began, Mack was suspended without pay for the first six games for failing to “follow University guidelines, policies and procedures" in his firing of Gaudio, the school said in a statement.

This season was the most disappointing for Louisville fans. The Cardinals fell to Furman early in the season, during Mack's suspension, and have now seen their record fall to 11-9, including losing five of the past six ACC games.

Louisville sits 5-5 in conference and has little chance to make this year's NCAA Tournament.

The Yum Center has seen poor attendance this year, too, and although there was an announced crowd of 16,000 to see Russ Smith’s jersey retirement ceremony at halftime of Louisville’s game against Notre Dame Saturday, fans booed after U of L lost.

More: Louisville basketball fans boo as Cardinals fall to Notre Dame for 4th loss in 5 games

What did Chris Mack and Louisville players say in recent days?

When Mack was asked about fans booing following the Notre Dame game, he said, “I’m frustrated, too.”

“I appreciate everybody coming tonight, they care deeply, they want Louisville to win," he said. "We want Louisville to win, trust me, we’re trying to do everything we can to get better, to improve."

Louisville captain Malik Williams was later asked if the players are still responding to the coaching staff, or if they are tuning them out.

He paused and said, “I don’t have a comment for that.”

Two days later, the Cardinals lost again, this time at Virginia.

“We’re not here to do anything other than win games, and we haven’t gotten the job done here as of late,” Mack said Monday night.

By Tuesday, Mack's evening radio show had been canceled and there was considerable speculation that the end of his tenure was approaching.

On Wednesday afternoon, Mack wore a Cincinnati Bengals hat at the Louisville practice facility.

"I’m not bitter in any way. Loved our experience here," he said.

Hayes Gardner can be reached at hgardner@gannett.com; Twitter: @HayesGardner.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville basketball: Will coach Chris Mack and university part ways?