Chris Mack is officially out as Louisville men’s basketball coach, it was announced Wednesday, and he said he isn’t “bitter at all” at the outcome.
The board of trustees and University of Louisville Athletic Association jointly approved Mack’s separation agreement, interim athletic director Josh Heird announced. The contract that Mack signed in 2018 called for a $12 million buyout, but the two sides negotiated the buyout down to $4.8 million as part of the agreement, sources told ESPN.
“It’s a hard place,” Mack told reporters Wednesday. “You’ve gotta win games.”
Associate head coach Mike Pegues has been named Louisville’s interim coach for the rest of the season.
With Chris Mack out, Louisville’s list of head-coaching candidates should be deep
Mack and Heird had numerous discussions throughout the season and recently, sources told ESPN, the sides agreed the place had become too toxic for Mack to continue.
“Coaching transitions are always difficult, especially during the course of the season, but Chris and I agreed that it is in the best interests of our student-athletes that he step aside immediately,” Heird said in a statement that described the move as a “mutual agreement to part ways, effective immediately.”
Louisville dropped to 11-9 after a road defeat at Virginia on Monday, the Cardinals’ fifth loss in six games. Mack was suspended without pay for the first six games of the season and Louisville is 6-8 since his return.
“It’s been building. We all want the best for Louisville and I still do. That’s not going to change,” Mack told reporters. “It’s not really important when or any of that stuff. What’s important is that these guys need to be able to be connected. I’m humble enough where if I’m not the right person — all good, man. Just want the best for them. They’re great kids. I loved my team at Louisville. My kids loved it here. I harbor no bitterness.”
The relationship between Mack and the fan base had also deteriorated, dating to last March when the Cardinals fell short of the NCAA tournament.
“I love ’em. I love ’em,” Mack said Wednesday. “They want to win. S—, I do too. I ain’t bitter at all. I got my family, I got a great life. I’m good.”
Mack, 52, said several times over the past month that he was having trouble getting through to his team, at one point saying that “this team has been impossible for us to figure out.”
After Louisville’s loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, senior forward Malik Williams was asked whether players were still responding to the coaching staff.
“I don’t have a comment for that,” Williams said.
Mack was hired in 2018 after nine seasons at Xavier. He led Louisville to the NCAA tournament in his first season, then finished in second place in the ACC in Year 2. The Cardinals were a potential Sweet 16 team before the coronavirus pandemic canceled the tournament.
Last season, however, Louisville went 13-7 and missed the NCAA tournament. The Cardinals started 9-1 but collapsed over the final two months. Overall, Mack went 68-36 at Louisville.
In September, the NCAA amended a previous notice of allegations against Louisville to include three alleged violations by the men’s basketball program under Mack. The alleged violations stemmed from last spring’s firing of former assistant coach Dino Gaudio, which resulted in Gaudio attempting to extort Mack. In a recording, Gaudio told Mack he would expose violations if not paid the remainder of his salary.
The NCAA alleged that Mack “either participated in, condoned, or negligently disregarded violations involving graduate assistants and others participation in practice as well as the creation and use of personalized recruiting videos and aids.”
It also said, “Mack did not demonstrate that he promoted an atmosphere for compliance.”
Mack was suspended for the first six games of this season for not following university guidelines and procedures in Gaudio’s firing.
Pegues took over for Mack during the first six games of the season.
“I love Mike,” Mack said. “I coached with him for 10 years. He is a special person. He’ll connect and he deserves an opportunity like this. I think he’ll do a tremendous job just like I thought he would do a tremendous job while I was out.”
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