Why Louisville is separating from Chris Mack and potential replacements for Cardinals men’s basketball coach

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(Getty Images)

Louisville and its men’s basketball head coach Chris Mack appear to be headed for a divorce.

According to multiple reports, an official meeting between the university’s Board of Trustees and the Athletics board was scheduled for Wednesday to approve the separation. The news was first reported by The Athletic. Although he’s only in his fourth season of a seven-year deal with the Cardinals, reports speculate that the 64-52 loss to Virginia on Monday night was his last game on the sidelines at Louisville. 

“I don’t know what the future holds,” Mack told reporters on Wednesday morning. “I’m not bitter. I love these guys, the university’s been great to me and my family, it was hard telling my girls. But life is too short to live bitter.”

“We all want the best for Louisville, and I still do. That’s not going to change. What’s important is that these guys need to be able to reconnect and I’m humble enough that if I’m not the right person, all good man. I just want the best for them.”

The possibility of the impending separation was fueled even further when Mack’s radio show was canceled on Tuesday night. 

The decision to move on from Mack comes during a time of uncertainty for Louisville, which is run by interim athletic director Josh Heird. The Cardinals are also without a full-time school president after the recent departure of Neeli Bendapudi left for Penn State.

Following the confirmation of the separation agreement later this week, per Jon Rothstein, assistant Mike Pegues will take over as interim head coach ahead of the Cardinals’ next matchup at home against Duke. 

As @SethDavisHoops reports, Chris Mack will not return as Louisville’s head coach, a source confirmed. Official announcement expected for Wednesday.

Assistant Mike Pegues is expected to be Louisville’s interim head coach, starting with Saturday’s game against Duke.

— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 25, 2022

Mack’s buyout is approximately $12 million, which could be negotiated down as part of the separation agreement. 

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After leading Xavier for nine seasons, Mack was hired by Louisville in 2018 on a seven-year deal worth about $4 million per season. He helped the Cardinals earn the No. 7 seed and a trip to the NCAA March Madness Tournament during his first year with the program. 

Louisville sits at 11-9 overall and 5-5 in the ACC after losing five of its past six games.

Mack was suspended without pay for multiple games at the beginning of the season during an investigation on his former assistant, Dino Gaudio. The NCAA’s investigation discovered several violations in Louisville and Gaudio was sentenced to a year of probation and with $10,000 fine for attempting to extort Mack. 

Several players shared in the frustration on the Cardinals’ coaching situation.WDRB reporter Rick Bozich spoke to Louisville players on Tuesday regarding the staff change. 

I’ve talked to 3 former Louisville players about the news percolating around Cardinal basketball.

They are all ready to move on from Chris Mack today.

“This is a real mess,” one said.

— rickbozich (@rickbozich) January 25, 2022

While Pegues will temporarily take charge of coaching responsibilities, Louisville will search for potential candidates. WLKY reporter Dominique Yates already offered speculation on replacements for Louisville’s head coach. 

Source tells me, if Chris Mack is gone as Louisville’s coach, here’s some names of interest:

Kenny Payne

Bruce Pearl

Will Wade

Nate Oats

Not saying there’s interest from Louisville, but I’m told Pearl “wants it badly.”

Payne also strong interest.

— Dominique Yates (@RealDYates) January 25, 2022

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With the loss to Virginia on Monday night, the Cardinals marked their fifth loss to conference opponents and fell to an 11-9 (5-5 ACC) record for the season. Louisville will have a shot at breaking their slump as they prepare to host Duke on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET. 

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