The New Steward of Xavier Tradition

When Sean Miller resigned as Xavier’s basketball coach to take the job at grand old Arizona following the 2008-09 season, I figured Chris Mack – Miller’s right-hand man on the bench – would get a shot at the job Miller was leaving. At first, I didn’t think he’d actually get the job.

I’d covered the Musketeers for three seasons, and I got to know Mack fairly well when he was Miller’s top assistant. I like him.

But I wasn’t sure he was the right guy for the job. I thought Xavier, with two Elite Eight appearances since 2004, could draw in somebody more high profile. A coach who had run his own program before. A coach with more accomplishments. Ultimately, Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski went with his gut – and the recommendation of Miller – and hired Mack. I’ve questioned Bobinski about the move: are you sure Mack was the guy you wanted, the right guy for the job? And every time, Bobinski – whose judgment I trust tremendously – has been resolute. He’s sure.

For the latest issue of Cincinnati Profile magazine, the editors wanted me to write about Mack. How would he deal with the expectations that continued to filter throughout the Xavier fan base, even as the exhaust from Miller’s jet plane out of town barely had evaporated? How would Mack perform as a head coach?

I sat down with Mack for about a half-hour, and the interview was perfectly fine. But honestly, I had a tough time writing this story. Some stories are like that. Not sure of the lede, I had to work for a way to begin the story. I had to work hard, harder than normal to find the right words. After having just read it, though, I think it comes out pretty well. Mack comes off pretty well* also.

*Enough so where, before a recent game vs. Kent State, Mack spotted me in the hallway outside the Cintas Center media room, stopped in his tracks and said he appreciated the article.

His coaching career hasn’t started so splendidly, though. The Musketeers are 5-3 after putting up an uninspired effort against Kansas State on Tuesday. Yes, in Miller’s first season, his squad went 17-12 and missed the NCAA tournament. Fans blasted him. Mack, I imagine, will begin receiving the same treatment soon if Xavier doesn’t improve. I still like him, but ask me if he’s the right guy for the job, and the only answer I can give is this:

I’m still not sure.

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