The University of Louisville and men’s basketball coach Chris Mack have engaged in discussions to part ways, according to multiple media reports and confirmed by a source to CBS Sports. The reports suggest the ongoing discussions could lead to Louisville and Mack severing ties by Wednesday.
The university’s Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet with representatives of Louisville’s Athletic Association at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday, and according to the source, the school can’t make anything official until that meeting. Still, it’s widely expected that Mack will no longer be the coach of the Cardinals after its conclusion.
Mack, 52, was hired by the Cardinals in 2018 and went 68-37, including an 11-9 record this season. He left Xavier, his alma mater, after a prosperous nine-year run where he won 69% of his games, made the NCAA Tournament eight times and deftly navigated the Musketeers into the Big East after leaving the Atlantic 10. His Xavier tenure culminated with the program’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2018. Shortly thereafter, he was hired away to Louisville as the overwhelmingly popular pick to succeed a scandal-plagued program under Rick Pitino (who is now the coach at Iona).
Mack’s time at Louisville started well but got rocky since the onset of the pandemic. The Cardinals were a one-and-done in the 2019 NCAA Tournament in Mack’s first season, then owned 24-7 record and were headed toward a quality seed in 2020 before COVID-19 killed March Madness. In 2020-21, Louisville went 13-7 due to multiple scheduling cancellations and COVID pauses and ultimately was a surprise snub from the 2021 NCAA Tournament. That led Mack to make staff changes some saw as surprising, including former assistant Dino Gaudio, who threatened to extort Mack if he didn’t help Gaudio get the money he thought he deserved.
Mack secretly recorded that conversation. Gaudio was charged with an extortion attempt but eventually let off lightly and avoided serving time in prison. The university said Mack’s decision to fire Gaudio violated proper university procedure and suspended him for the first six games of this season. Recent issues beyond last offseason’s drama accelerated Mack’s ouster.
Mack’s contract states he’s owed more than $12 million if fired, though there is a clause in the contract that brings his buyout to $0 if a Level I or Level II violation occurs on his watch.
In the fall, the NCAA updated a pre-existing Notice of Allegations against Louisville to include alleged/prohibited actions such as on-court activities and illegal recruiting videos. Because of these allegations, which were brought to light by Gaudio in the recording Mack made, Mack could also be held accountable as the head coach. This carries more relevance since Louisville was already on probation dating back to transgressions under Pitino. If proven true, those would be Level II violations and could negate the terms of Mack’s buyout. The NCAA asserts Mack failed to properly promote compliance within his program.
The case has not been resolved and isn’t expected to be for many months, sources told CBS Sports.
Louisville has lost five of its last six games, the lone win in that stretch coming at home vs. sub-.500 Boston College. After the team’s 12-point loss at Pittsburgh on Jan. 15, Mack said, “I take full responsibility for our team just not competing. It is extremely frustrating at this point, but that falls on deaf ears. Until I can figure out what motivates our group, I don’t see a lot changing. It’s frustrating.”
Mack also said, “We’re just not getting the job done. That falls right on my shoulders, and I got to figure out something different.”
Louisville’s pending split with Mack comes at a time when the university does not have a sitting president or athletic director. The Cardinals job — widely viewed as one of the best in men’s college basketball — becomes the second significant one on the market after Maryland opened in early December when Mark Turgeon resigned.
Itching for more college hoops analysis? Listen below and subscribe to the Eye on College Basketball podcast where we take you beyond the hardwood with insider information and instant reactions.