The University of Louisville and men’s basketball coach Chris Mack have officially parted ways. As planned, assistant men’s basketball coach Mike Pegues will act as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
After a negotiation, U of L will pay Mack $4.8 million of a buyout that had been set at $12.75 million.
“Training transitions are always difficult, especially during the season, but Chris and I have agreed that it is in the best interests of our student-athletes that he step down immediately,” the athletic director said per U of L acting Josh Heird in a statement. “We will always put our student-athletes first and do everything we can to make sure they have an incredible experience in Louisville. I want to thank Chris and his family for their service to the University and we wish them the best in their next chapter.
Mack ends his U of L tenure with a 68-36 record in three and a half seasons, including 38-23 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and just one NCAA Tournament appearance in 2019.
“Waking up every day for the past four years as head coach at the University of Louisville has been an opportunity I will cherish,” Mack said. “For the past 50 years, this position has been among the most coveted in all of collegiate sports and I consider myself fortunate to have been part of the rich history of this university.
“It is with this sense of appreciation that I have made the decision to no longer be your coach. I know that I will miss the daily interactions with our student-athletes, coaches and fellow college students, but after 25 training, including the last 13 as a head coach, it’s time for me to focus on my family and spend more time being a dad. I don’t know what my future holds, but I know that I only remember the precious memories and the friends that we made in this community and this university.
“All of us who have the opportunity to represent this great university know that we are only in this position because of the passion, support and pride of Cardinal Nation, and I know that the best days of the University of Louisville basketball program remain ahead of him. . Coach Pegues is ready to lead this program through the final stretch of the season, and I encourage everyone to pack KFC Yum!Center to show our players how much the Louisville community cares about Cardinal Basketball.
“With all our hearts, my family and I thank you for your passion and support and wish Cardinal Nation and the University of Louisville all the best for the future. Go Cards!”
Mack’s relationship with U of L actually started on solid ground. Mack’s team in 2018-19 exceeded expectations to earn a 20-14 record and a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they were rebounded in the first round by Richard’s Minnesota Golden Gophers Pitino. The second year under Mack saw Louisville reach No. 1 in the nation in December, before a slide in conference play that had them 24-7 and the No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament before the season is canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From there, things started to go downhill.
Louisville’s 2020-21 season has been ravaged by COVID. The Cardinals were forced into multiple breaks, each time seeming to thwart the team’s momentum more than the last. When it was all done, U of L were 13-7 and the first team was kicked out of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
Missing the NCAA Tournament with the ACC Player of the Year finalist and an NBA draft pick required an offseason change, which meant more problems for Mack. He fired longtime assistants Luke Murray and Dino Gaudio, with the latter demanding 17 months’ salary or he would go to the NCAA with evidence of minor violations on Mack’s watch. Mack recorded said conversation, a violation of college protocol that earned him a six-game suspension to start the 2021-22 season. It also led to Gaudio pleading guilty to extortion charges in federal court.
This offseason drama set the stage for the disastrous 2021-22 season that got us here. The Cards got off to a 5-1 start under Pegues but have been a dreadful 6-8 since Mack returned to the sidelines on December 1. Stories of disgruntled players and an even more disgruntled head coach have circulated across town for weeks, leading us to that previously unthinkable moment when Mack and the varsity go their separate ways before the end of his fourth season on the job.
“I have complete confidence in Mike Pegues, who did a tremendous job leading the team in November and I’m heartened that he has agreed to lead us for the rest of the season,” Heird said. “We have set the bar high for the expectations of our basketball program, on and off the court, and we will continue to strive to achieve those goals. We have student-athletes, scholars, facilities, a tradition and world-class fan support, and I am confident that we will be able to find the new leader of our cherished men’s basketball program. As we conduct a deliberate and focused search, we will continue to focus on our students. -athletes and I am convinced that Cardinal Nation will join them.