The Tradition Continues
April 17, 2009
By Adam Kiefaber
CINCINNATI - Upon entering Xavier's official athletic Web site, each visitor is greeted with a special message that features a picture of new head coach Chris Mack and reads, "Xavier University is proud to announce Chris Mack: Men's Basketball Head Coach."
Perhaps no one is prouder than Xavier Athletic Director Mike Bobinski, who officially named Mack the head coach on April 15 in the Conaton Board Room of Schmidt Hall on the campus of Xavier University.
"We were very, very fortunate to have had an extremely deep and qualified pool of candidates," said Bobinski about his search for a new head coach after Sean Miller left to take the same position at the University of Arizona.
"I am going to make it very clear, he (Mack) won the job. He wasn't given the job and it wasn't a default situation here. Chris won this job and is sitting here today because he has flat out earned it. There is no other way to describe it."
When Miller officially accepted the job at Arizona on April 6, Chris Mack's name was one of the first to be mentioned for the open spot at Xavier.
Going against him: he had no head coaching experience.
Going for him: everything else.
He grew up a fan of the Musketeers and remembers going to his first Xavier game in 1982. He also recalls waiting in line to get his Bob Staak Xavier Basketball Camp T-shirt.
Mack also played locally at St. Xavier High School and against the Musketeers while attending the University of Evansville before transferring to Xavier.
At Xavier, he was two-time captain and eventually worked under the late Skip Prosser for both the Musketeers and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Mack came back to Xavier from Wake Forest in 2004 and worked as an assistant coach with Sean Miller. For the last five seasons, he has helped recruit and put together some of the strongest teams in school history.
"I personally felt like Coach Mack was a perfect choice," sophomore guard Danté Jackson said. "Obviously there were other guys that were interviewed during the process, but I stayed confident that Coach Mack would do what he had to do to get the job and he is a great person and I am happy for him."
Mack initially interviewed for the job with Bobinski on Wednesday, April 8. After which, he went to Louisville to spend time with his in-laws for Easter. Bobinski sent Mack a text message on Friday that read, "Can you meet for lunch tomorrow?"
Mack quickly responded, "How about breakfast?"
Once he thought that he might be getting the job, Mack sent out a text to his players and called some of them during the holiday break, "I told them that I liked my chances, but at the same time I couldn't make any promises."
Mack made it clear during his introductory press conference that his players were the first to know when he got the job with the exception of a few random people.
"I know that obviously Joe Schmo on the Internet put out that I signed a deal last Wednesday, and that's not true," Mack said. "These guys (the players) were the first to know when I signed it, minus a couple of people I saw in the elevator on the way down with a big smile on my face."
The consensus among the players was excitement. Players like freshman Brad Redford, who was recruited by Mack, likes the "familiarity" that they already have with their new head coach's style of play.
"Coach Mack will kind of stay close to that style that Coach Miller put in place," Redford said. "Obviously he is a different person and will have his own twist on it, but he really cares about us as players. I really enjoyed working with him this past year and will enjoy it for years to come."
As a freshman last year, Redford grew a lot under Coach Miller and admitted that he will "definitely take things from him." However, at the same time, he has known Coach Mack since he was a freshman in high school and is "excited" about his role on next year's team.
Redford might not be as excited for next season, however, as Indiana University transfer Jordan Crawford, who had to sit out all of last season.
Crawford is extremely confident in next year's team with Mack as their head coach.
"He texted us all that there is a good chance, so once I could tell that it was going Coach Mack's way, I was excited," Crawford said.
"I don't think anyone really knows what I can bring to this team or what Mark (Lyons) can do. I really don't think anyone really knows how good this team is going to be."
One thing that could factor in Xavier's preseason ranking is the return of junior Derrick Brown, who recently declared himself eligible for the 2009 NBA Draft.
"We are going to get feedback from the NBA, we are going to get feedback from people that are in-the-know and Derrick is a smart guy...Derrick is going to make a smart decision, whether that is here or there, I told Derrick, 'whichever way it goes I am going to be behind you 100 percent,'" Mack said.
Brown will not hire an agent and will have until June 15 to withdraw his name from the draft pool. The actual draft itself takes place on June 25.
Whether he returns or not, Xavier will have a strong core of players that includes post players Jason Love, Kenny Frease and Jamel McLean along with guards Crawford, Lyons, Redford, Jackson and Terrell Holloway.
Armed with familiar talent, Mack is going to keep the same style of play.
"Why would I go from teaching them Spanish for two years and then throw them into French III? I am not going to do that. I am going to make sure there is continuity to what we are doing," Mack said.
The new coach wants Xavier to continue to be a defensive-minded team, while running a more up-tempo style on offense.
Before Mack is critiqued for his coaching during games, he has the big task of filling on his coaching staff.
"I am going to surround myself with the best coaching staff Xavier's ever had," Mack said.