“There are no different eras. This is Louisville basketball.”
And just like that, in the blink of an eye, the University of Louisville basketball program was united.
On Wednesday, new Athletic Director Vince Tyra presented Chris Mack with a personalized Louisville Slugger baseball bat, and Mack took that bat and hit a homerun in his opening press conference as the new men’s basketball coach for the Cards. He said all of the right things, which was expected. The thing is, I 100% believe in the words that he said. He seemed honest and real, not full of coach speak and hyperbole. He appears to be “one of us”, and that is something new and exciting.
This program has been rocked for the last couple of years. Times have been difficult. It seemed like we could never stay out of the news or off of the scrolling ticker on the bottom of the screen on ESPN. Dorm scandal here, FBI scandal there. And when you start to move it to the back of your mind, something new comes up with it. Or the national media brings something up that is several months late, but it comes back to the forefront and you have to think about it all over again. It’s been challenging as a fan for quite some time.
Wednesday was refreshing. It felt like not only a new chapter, but a new book. And this book wasn’t separate from all previous editions in the series. It didn’t try to be better or different than the last books. It tied them all together. When you have two head coaches since 1971, it’s natural to break those tenures down into their own “eras”. The Denny Crum era. The Rick Pitino era. Chris Mack doesn’t want this to be the Chris Mack era. To him, “this is Louisville basketball”, and that’s how it should be.
It’s no secret that there was a divide when it came to Crum’s players and supporters, and Pitino’s. It was as if the program started over around the turn of the century, and if you played in the 1900’s, you were cast off like you never existed. Not anymore. On Wednesday, you saw both eras represented. Two of the biggest names in Louisville basketball history, Milt Wagner and Luke Hancock, were in the building. Ellis Myles played for both coaches and he was there. You don’t have to look at them and think about the coach they played for. Just that they played for the University of Louisville. That is the only era that matters.
As I watched the press conference, I started to picture it with other head coaches that were named as possible candidates for the position. I’m sure others would have said all of the right things as well. Maybe they have solid coaching credentials or are great speakers and would have the fans riled up because of their outgoing personality. But there was just something different. This felt too real, too genuine. It really feels like Chris Mack was meant for THIS job. For him to leave his alma mater, it had to be a special place. He wasn’t just looking for a big named school to come calling. It had to be the right one, and Louisville was one of the only ones that could lure him away. We always hear about the “right fit” when it comes to sports and certain positions of power. To call this a good fit sounds like an understatement. Time will tell, but I think it’s perfect.
I won’t bash Pitino just because we have Chris Mack, but there will be glaring differences that we see. Mack is younger and seems like just a normal guy, not above everyone else. He has young kids and it appears that the community will get to know them well and they will probably be shown on TV every game cheering with wins and crying with losses. We will see his wife shown during games and hear all about how she is from here and went to (ahem) Holy Cross High School. We won’t see a wife and then suddenly think about Pitino’s personal life and extortion and all of that mess. That was not basketball related. He was the one extorted. But still, we don’t have to brush aside our coach’s personal life and just be happy that he can coach basketball. Now we can be proud of our head coach on and off the court. That will be nice.
Our coach is active on twitter! This may not matter to some of you, but wow this will be different. It’s just another thing that makes Mack relatable to us normal folk. His first tweet after his press conference yesterday was about his wife, and it seems as if he was jokingly poking fun at her. Pitino hated social media and the players were not allowed to tweet during the season. That can be a really good rule, I know. But still, this will be fun.
OMG!!!! Babe, what is going on here? https://t.co/2JpI8yamXH— Chris Mack (@CoachChrisMack) March 29, 2018
We are not out of the woods on this whole FBI thing, I know that. Nobody is. It’s not just us anymore. But rather than worry about that, because who knows when something will come of it, I choose to be excited about this new...time for Louisville basketball. I better not call it an era. It feels refreshing and like a brand new start. I am happy to have Vince Tyra leading our athletic department. I am ecstatic to have Chris Mack leading our basketball program.
“They say the darkest clouds elicit the brightest lightning bolts. That lightning bolt is coming.” - Chris Mack.
Go Cards...beat everyone!