Chris Mack has officially stepped down as Louisville’s men’s basketball coach, it was announced Wednesday, and said he is not at all “bitter” about the outcome.
The board of trustees and the University of Louisville Athletic Association have jointly approved Mack’s divorce agreement, interim sports director Josh Heird announced. The contract Mack signed in 2018 called for a $12 million buyout, but the two sides negotiated the buyout for up to $4.8 million as part of the deal, sources told ESPN.
“It’s a tough place,” Mack told reporters on Wednesday. “You have to win games.”
Associate head coach Mike Pegues has been named Louisville’s interim coach for the remainder of the season.
Mack and Heird had numerous discussions throughout the season and recently, sources told ESPN, the parties agreed that the place had become too toxic for Mack to continue.
“Coaching transitions are always difficult, especially over the course of the season, but Chris and I agreed it is in the best interest of our student-athletes for him to step aside immediately,” Heird said in a statement. described the move as a “mutual agreement to part ways, effective immediately.”
Louisville fell to 11-9 after a road loss to Virginia on Monday, the Cardinals’ fifth loss in six games. Mack was suspended unpaid for the first six games of the season and Louisville is 6-8 since his return.
“It’s building. We all want the best for Louisville and I still want that. That’s not going to change,” Mack told reporters. “It’s not really important when or whatever. What’s important is that these guys need to be able to connect. I’m humble enough when I’m not the right person — all good, man. I just want the best for them. They’re great kids. I loved my team in Louisville. My kids loved it here. I don’t harbor bitterness.”
The relationship between Mack and the fanbase had also deteriorated, dating back to March of last year when the Cardinals fell short of the NCAA tournament.
“I love them. I love them,” Mack said Wednesday. “They want to win. S—, me too. I’m not bitter at all. I have my family, I have a great life. I’m good.”
Mack, 52, said several times over the past month that he was struggling to get through to his team, saying at one point, “This team is impossible for us to figure out.”
After Louisville’s loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, senior striker Malik Williams was asked if players were still responding to the coaching staff.
“I have no comment on that,” Williams said.
Mack was hired in 2018 after nine seasons with Xavier. He led Louisville to the NCAA tournament in his first season and 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.
However, last season, Louisville went 13-7 and missed the NCAA tournament. The Cardinals started 9-1, but collapsed in the last two months. Overall, Mack went 68-36 in Louisville.
In September, the NCAA amended an earlier statement of charges against Louisville to include three alleged violations by Mack’s men’s basketball program. The alleged violations stemmed from the resignation of former assistant coach Dino Gaudio last spring, leading to Gaudio trying to extort Mack. In one recording, Gaudio Mack said he would expose violations if he didn’t pay the rest of his salary.
The NCAA alleged that Mack “participated in, condoned, or negligently ignored violations involving graduate assistants and others participating in the practice, as well as creating and using personalized recruiting videos and tools.”
It also said, “Mack has not shown that he fostered an atmosphere for compliance.”
Mack was banned for the first six games this season for not following university guidelines and procedures in Gaudio’s dismissal.
Pegues took over for Mack in 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 will connect and he deserves an opportunity like this. I think he will do a great job just like I thought he would do a great job while I was gone .”
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