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Cardinal Hoops is Back to Where It Once Belonged

Chris Mack fits just fine

U of L basketball has turned the page, is starting a new chapter.

The windows have been thrown open, fresh air is circulating the premises.

And, while I’m tossing about worn clichés, it would be easy to fall into the trap of offering this: There’s a new sheriff in town.

Except that this new fella come down from upriver doesn’t seem like the guy who would fling open the swinging doors and swagger into Louie’s Saloon with an air of high authority, making sure all the boys at the bar saw his badge’s gleam in the gaslight. He’s more the dude who shows up late after a long day toiling at the livery stable, has a shot maybe two of sarsaparilla but rarely if ever too many then heads home to buss his bride on the cheek and tumble about with the kids.

So, then I arrive here: to say that a new era in Cardinal hoops has dawned. That the new guy in town, Chris Mack, looked out at the assembled to the phalanx of former hoopsters who thrilled us in the red & black, and proclaimed, “This is your program. I want each of you to know there are no different eras.

”This is Louisville basketball.”

The inner seven year old in this wrinkled skin over these aching bones had already made note that the entirety of his life long affair with his great love was represented.

From the 50s, Phil Rollins, who starred on the NIT title team with the new AD’s dad. Rollins said he’s on board.

From the 60s, Butch Beard, who made a career of grabbing #31’s half court missiles and taking the rock on for a score. And Mike Grosso, Unseld’s successor, and the first person I ever got stoned with in the infield on Derby Day. (Which was long after his playing career was completed, and is neither here nor there, but is a part of my personal Cardinal lore.)

Coach Crum , God bless him, was in the house. I asked Denny if there was a press conference when he was named coach in ‘71?

”What year was that? How many years ago? Hell, I don’t remember.”

I don’t think there was.

He was joined by Jerry Eaves, along with Milt Wagner and Robby Valentine and Roger Burkman and surely one or two others I missed.

It was obvious that Chris Mack has long been eyeing U of L. His affection and affinity for U of L basketball was palpable. When he referenced Never Nervous Pervis and Dr. Dunkenstein, there was more than a hint of awe in his voice.

So overwhelmed by my love for the program and a sense of relief that it is under good, loving stewardship, I frankly can’t remember many of the particulars of Mack’s acceptance speech.

All he’d promise is that he’d give his best.

He kept talking about and sort of to his players, all of whom were present and off to the side of the dais, but for the departed seniors, Q and Anas. He was inclusive, but mentioned Steven Enoch and Jordan Nwora by name when making points about some things specific.

Oh yeah, he mentioned several times that the Cardinals will be tough, together and unbreakable.

Baseline: It is simply a relief to know that U of L basketball has -- cliché alert -- turned the corner, and the guy behind the wheel knows where he’s going even if all the gigantic pot holes on the asphalt ahead haven’t been filled.

I’m in this Cardinal thing deep. Even with all the crap coming down, I’ve never for a second considered moving on. It’s too late to stop now.

But there is great comfort, and a strengthening bond for me now that a legacy, Vince Tyra, is running the athletic department, and Chris Mack who obviously, really wanted to be coaching here is coaching here.

U of L hoops is back to where it once belonged.

Which is not to mention that one of Mack’s assistants will be Luke Murray, Bill Murray’s son.

So we got that goin’ for us.

Which is nice.

-- Seedy K