The last decade has seen a handful of prominent college basketball head coaches — Jay Wright, John Calipari, Tony Bennett ... Kevin Ollie — capture their first national title.
While the current hierarchy of college hoops front man is saturated with guys who are already or soon to be members of the Hall of Fame, the “next wave” is starting to take shape. With that in mind, Sports Illustrated asked its college hoops writers who they believed would be the next head coach to cut down the nets for the first time.
Eric Single went with Purdue’s Matt Painter, Molly Geary went with the man who came a basket away from breaking through a year ago in Texas Tech’s Chris Beard, and Dan Greene made a lofical pick with Gonzaga’s Mark Few. The other four SI writers all rolled with Louisville’s Chris Mack. Their main justification was that the Cardinals have a fantastic shot at winning the whole thing in 2019-20.
Emily Caron: No one will top Tony Bennett’s redemption run, but Chris Mack could bring the Cardinals back to glory and get his first national championship with Louisville this year. He’s just in his second season at the helm and it might sound early, but with the right combination of veteran leadership (led by potential ACC POY Jordan Nwora), a good grad transfer get in Lamarr Kimble and a highly-rated recruiting class, Mack could have the right combination on his roster to take an NCAA title.
Max Meyer: While I think Chris Beard is the best coach not to have a title under his belt, I don’t think he’s up next. In fact, I think there will be another first-time winner this season: Chris Mack. Getting Jordan Nwora back for his junior year was huge, and grad transfer Lamarr Kimble is a welcome addition at point guard. Pulling in a very strong recruiting class doesn’t hurt either. Louisville overachieved in Mack’s first season at the helm, and the Cardinals will be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC for years to come. Mack is an excellent gameplanner, and he has the talent to make a major breakthrough this campaign.
Michael Shapiro: Chris Mack certainly has a solid shot at his first national title entering 2019–20. The former Xavier head coach will lead a stacked Louisville squad into next season, headlined by returning forward Jordan Nwora. The 6’8” junior nearly entered the 2019 NBA draft, but will come back to Louisville after averaging 17 points per game in his second season with the Cardinals. Nwora will be joined by St. Joseph’s transfer Lamarr Kimble, filling Louisville’s notable hole at point guard. Mack’s crew is talented and tough, in prime position for the school’s first Final Four since 2012-13.
Mitchell Gladstone: It’s hard to question the success of Chris Mack. He’s made the NCAA tournament in nine of his 10 seasons as a head coach, including last year with a Louisville squad that not many were expecting much out of. The Cardinals are a projected top-10 team in the nation this year and should easily be one of the best teams in a down ACC, plus Louisville is one of just nine programs to stake claim to at least three national titles (albeit a 2013 crown that was later stripped due to NCAA violations). Even if the Cardinals aren’t cutting down the nets this coming April, I have a good feeling that Mack will reach the mountaintop pretty soon.
I know I’ve said it a bunch of times before, but the fact that these types of expectations are already back (and that they’re this lofty) at U of L in year two under Mack is both fantastic and remarkable.