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Trial By Numbers

The City of Louisville vs. Chris Mack

(I quietly slip in the back door of the courtroom and settle into a small space that had been saved for me on the last row, just as the trial is set to begin. Hundreds of people pack the courtroom, and the whisper of voices fade as the bailiff stands to his feet…)

Bailiff: All rise for the honorable Judge Kapowski

(The judge enters the room looking like she could be Ms. April in a ‘Bayside Swim Team’ calendar, but her brains outweigh her beauty, and you can tell she means business).

Bailiff: Judge this is case 2012-13A, the City of Louisville versus Chris Mack. All parties have been sworn in.

Judge Kapowski: Thank you Sheriff. Before we get started I want to remind all in attendance that this is a court of law, any outbursts or disruptions will not be tolerated and I’ll have you tossed out of here with such ferocity you’ll be on your back like BJ Flynn before the door even closes. This is a jury case but I will oversee the proceedings during the trial. Counsel, you may proceed…

City Attorney: Thank you judge. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we all know why we are here today. The reputation, the history, the prestige, of a once well respected program is slowing getting whipped away by a man collecting millions of dollars each year to do a job that he simply can not do. Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you today presenting evidence that proves that the University of Louisville Men’s Basketball program has suffered greatly under the tutelage of one Christopher Macintosh.

Defense Attorney: Objection your honor, I’d prefer that the City counsel actual know the name of the defendant in this case and use it properly for the record.

City Attorney: My humble apologies your honor, I just assumed he had shortened it, much how he shortens the basketball season each and every year.

(Ohhhhhhhh)

Judge K: Settle down, settle down. Bailiff Cousins is not afraid to throw elbows in here, people. And I’ll toss you quicker than TV Teddy. Proceed.

City Attorney: Ladies and Gentlemen, you all are smart people, and the evidence today is straightforward, no nonsense, real life numbers we can look at and see with our own two eyes just how far things have fallen. If it may please the court, I’d like our statistician to approach the stand and present Articles A through C for our purview (multiple charts and graphs are displayed across the court room as the jury strains their necks to see each item).

‘Article A’

I’d like to submit into Evidence ‘Article A’, a statistical overview of the team, showing both offensive and defensive efficiency rankings from the well-known and well respected college basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy. In looking at this chart it’s important to note that teams wish to be near the top line, a higher ranking obviously indicates better performance, but what we see in the last three years, starting in 2019, is that Mr. Mack is not only actively avoiding the top line of the chart but giving us data that is indicating plummeting returns. For the last three seasons the defensive performance has declined year over year over year, and the offense we were supposed to fall in love with in 2021 reached a level lower than anything we had seen around here in over a decade, and even that teams offensive woes back in 2012 were countered by a stellar defense that ranked number one in the country. A common theme that you’ll hear from me today is that things are not getting better, but quite the contrary, and time is not the answer for this city. Thank you judge.

Judge K: Thank you counsel. Defense, the floor is yours.

Defense Attorney: Ladies and gentlemen, the city must think you are idiots trotting this chart out here as if you can’t read it for yourselves. Mr. Mack took over a program in complete disarray in 2019, and is still dealing with the dark cloud of those scandals to this day, yet we are supposed to believe he was handed a program with a clean slate and no outside circumstances are allowed to be reflected in the on court performance of his team? The staff doesn’t operate in a bubble.

City Attorney: No, not in a bubble but they certainly appear to be on one every year.

Judge K: Counsel, no more outbursts! Defense, proceed.

Defense Attorney: Jury, please look at this chart once again. The city paints a picture that is a mess but you can see for yourself in his first season Mr. Mack raised the performance on both sides of the ball, increasing offensive production back to a respectable ranking and spring boarding that production into an offensive ranking in 2020 that has only been seen in this city four times in the last twenty seasons. Four times in twenty years! And two of those teams reached the Final Four. And while the defense had had struggles the last two seasons you have to take into account the roster turnover that has occurred, including replacing all five starters this year. Fresh faces translate to young men who have no understanding of the unique and fundamentally sound defensive principles from this Coach. His philosophy when implemented correctly wins championships, it’s been proven, but that simply can’t happen in one or two seasons. This man hasn’t even had a full four year recruiting cycle yet to get players in the program that fit his style. Immediate results sound nice in todays world, but as we know, Rome was simply not built in a day and those expectations are unrealistic. Thank you, your honor.

Judge K: City, back to you for rebuttal.

City Attorney: Jury, to follow up on the defenses pervious point, no one is asking for Rome to be built. Rome was already built….and thriving….but Mr. Mack is tearing it apart brick by brick….bricks from three, bricks from midrange, and bricks at two feet from the basket. But I can’t wait to hear more about this “impressive” offensive game plan from his defense team…Your honor, I wish to submit ‘Article B’ and ‘Article C’ into evidence. An overview of win percentages for both the season and the time when things matter most, in February and March.

‘Article B’

‘Article C’

City Attorney: Ladies and gentlemen, lets first look at Article B, a retrospective on season long win percentages. While the chart is sad enough in and of itself I’ve taken the time to add a trendline represented by the dashed line on the chart and a three year average for the years of 2019, 2020, and 2021 represented in red. Both of these lines, to be blunt, are terrifying. We see a trendline trending downward at a rate that will have the team under a 70% win percentage on the year in just a couple seasons. Do you like losing three out of every ten games you play? Is 20-10 going to be the new norm every year? Is that acceptable in this college basketball town, for a program as rich in tradition as the University of Louisville? I certainly don’t think so, and I don’t think you do either. But let’s focus our attention to that red line. That’s real. That’s really happening. The three year average of around 67% is only better than four non-Padgett coached teams in the last twenty seasons. And you know what’s special about those seasons? Three of them were what many would consider an excusable rebuild. Year one of a coaching change, the year after a Final Four, and the year after an Elite 8 trip. Do you recall going to a Final Four recently? How about an Elite 8? So what’s the excuse nearly four season into this tenure?

And while I know I’m short on time please refer to ‘Article C’ which is really where the rubber meets the road. We all know championships are won on the backs of the teams cohesiveness and gritty play down the stretch in both February and March. This is where the clock gets shorter, the shots get tougher, and the pressure can break you. Unfortunately for Mr. Mack, the pressure is folding him like a cheap lawn chair at a Kid Rock concert. No surprise to you, the jury, we see a downward trend again, and the average for the last three seasons, with the pressure turned all the way up, is worse than every other non-Padgett team the last two decades except for 2004. They say if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. In this instance ladies and gentlemen, the kitchen is “end of the season success”, and Mack is doing a great job at avoiding it. Thank you judge.

Defense Attorney: Here we go again. The city points to a chart, singles out a few data points and acts like the rest of the information can be ignored or tossed aside. He’s no better than Indiana fans who think their program is still relevant due to some old dusty banners. He thinks you’re incompetent, and can’t think for yourself….but I know different. Let’s look back at Article B. You didn’t hear the city mention 2020, did you? While focusing on averages and trendlines and all this other hypothetical mumbo jumbo he ignores the fact that last year there was a team ranked number one in the country playing in this very city and the season win total was better than the majority of the teams who have put on that jersey the last twenty years, winning nearly eight out of every ten games, And who in their right mind can look at win percentages in a pandemic shortened season?! Does the city lead you to believe that the significant number of non-conference opponents taken off the schedule this year had no impact on this number? What about the lower-tier ACC teams that they didn’t get an opportunity to play? The season win percentage would have been altered significantly and the “real data” he speaks of is flawed and lacking major context to say the least.

And since we are discussing flawed data, lets look again at the “pressure packed” games down the stretch in February and March. Yes, year one in a new system in a new program was a challenge, as it is with nearly every other coach in that same situation, but 2020 was a resounding response, surpassing even the cities own arbitrary trendline, and there is no question that number would have been even higher if…another forgotten data point from the city…there was no postseason basketball played! How quickly we forget that this team who was a Top 4 seed in the conference tournament and headed toward a respectable seed in the NCAA tournament did not get an opportunity to perform and increase those win totals even more. With that opportunity one could expect that three season average he so consistently wanted to reference would be much more in line with Seasons 1-3 of the previous coaching regime at this very school in 2002 to 2004, and of even greater value than the typical first three seasons from a new coach at any said school across the country. Manipulated data, incomplete facts, and hypothetical arguments are all the city has, which isn’t surprising, but certainly is a waste of all our time. Thank you.

Judge K: Time for closing statements. You each have 0.9 seconds….I mean 90 seconds. City counsel, proceed.

City Attorney: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You likely see a trend in each of the defense teams responses. It’s so painfully obvious I don’t really need to point it out but for the sake of the argument I’ll play the game he wants to play. You can’t keep pointing at the 2020 season as your saving grace or the cornerstone for the future. It was two years ago, and it was composed of a roster that wasn’t his. Of the top five scorers on that team ZERO of them were recruited by Mack and of the top four rebounders, you guessed it, ZERO of them were recruited by Mack. You want to paint hope towards the future, you want to frame a picture of prosperity with puppies and rainbows and championships, show me something with players he is responsible for being on campus. This year we got a heavy dose of Mack recruits, and when the season wrapped it left this team on the outside looking in. Before I close, I want to admit one additional item into evidence your honor, ‘Article D’ which is the smoking gun of the whole trial. Ladies and gentlemen, please take a look at what really matters around here…

‘Article D’

The University of Louisville Men’s basketball program has won a single postseason game in the past three years. One. Not one per year, not one on average…one. And it was two years ago. The defense will say I’m trying to trick you or manipulate you, but I’ll let this chart do all the talking. From 2002 until 2015 this team never went more than one season without stacking up multiple postseason victories. Put yourself back into that place and time of watching the 2005 run to the Final Four, those back to back Elite 8 trips in 2008 and 2009, the scrappy bunch in 2012 who ran all the way to the Final four, and the subsequent season as we watched this Cardinal team cut down the nets and win a National Championship. Are we that far gone? Are we really ready to accept a single victory in the postseason the last three years as the new normal? What on this chart points towards hope…..points towards encouragement…..points towards a better tomorrow? I’ll simply ask you this. Are you better off today, as a fan, than three years ago? And if not, do you really think you’ll be any better off a year from now? Two years from now? If the answer is no, then it’s time for things to change. Thank you, your honor.

Judge K: Defense, your time starts now.

Defense Attorney: Only in a world as crazy as the one the city attorney lives in do we casually gloss over ongoing NCAA investigations and global pandemics, as if they are just dust in the wind. People like to categorize these things as “excuses” or something that shouldn’t even be considered once the ball hits the floor, but that simply isn’t possible. You can’t exclude external circumstances from the measured performance on the court no more than you can separate the eggs and the flour once the cake is already in the oven. The city wants to note postseason performance but once again fails to indicate that in the 2020 season the University of Louisville actually finished tied for first in the country in NCAA tournament wins. You see, they, along with all 300+ other programs didn’t get to play a single game in the tournament that matters most. So, if you want to agree with the city and say the information in ‘Article D’ is all that matters I can understand that stance, but then peel back the blinders and see that you only have two seasons worth of data to digest. Is one win in two seasons acceptable? Of course not, and Mr. Mack would be the first to agree, but it’s hardly a “trend” and more so a data point showing his first season on the job, and a season he was forced to replace his entire starting unit.

I’ll be up front. If we were to revisit this chart in three years there is a strong possibility that this number may not be significantly higher. Why you may ask? Because looming NCAA decisions could once again impact the opportunity for Mr. Mack to stack up wins like Russ Smith stacks waffles. In the past five years the program has seen zero postseason play numerous times due to a self-imposed ban, a pandemic, and another season with a Coach who found out he had the job just days before they were set to tip off, but yet my client is supposed to bear the brunt of that load simply because he has the job now!? Extended periods of postseason failure have been and will continue to be unacceptable at this program, but don’t let recency bias cloud your judgment about who or what is responsible for this disappointing duration of time.

Just as no one would blame the fireman, who rushes into a burning building to help save those in a difficult situation as being responsible for the fire that he stands in, nor should we blame Mr. Mack who understood that there would be challenges but is facing the heat and looking to extinguish the continuing fires that pop up left and right which are neither of his doing, or within his control. Let him fight those fires. Taking unnecessary and untimely action at this junction, may just cause the building, this program, to turn into a pile of ash. Thank you.

Judge K: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, all evidence has been presented. You will adjourn to the comment section and discuss with a demeanor that is consistent with societal standards. Proper decorum is not only expected but required. The jury will have 365 days to reach a verdict, I wish the best of luck to the moderator…

*******

(All information depicted above is straight from the mind of CardinalStrong and does not reflect the views of Card Chronicle or it’s editors. Any resemblance to real world events is strictly coincidental and frankly, somewhat scary.)

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