Chris Mack said ‘no’ this week. It was the right answer. You know Mack, young, local guy makes good head coach at Xavier. Maybe not the greatest player in his high school and college days, but played the game hard. A much better coach than he ever was a player.
Mack has it good right now. A traditionally strong program, great arena to play in and a big time recruiting class just about every year. There’s nothing that Butler is doing right now that Xavier can’t do. Similar stories, in a lot of ways.
Mack watched Skip Prosser take Xavier basketball to a whole new level. He followed Prosser to Wake Forest and got all the clippings, saw all the highlights about ‘X’ was doing under Thad Matta and Sean Miller. Came home to help Miller as an assistant.
Every one of those coaches, Miller, Matta, Prosser all left Xavier for better money in bigger conferences. He probably heard Prosser lament, once or twice, about leaving Xavier, a good deal with a nurturing community. He watched Miller leave for a school that never misses an NCAA Tournament. He knew all about Matta going to Columbus and the opportunity to excel at a school where basketball was an after thought to spring football.
He’s smart, Chris Mack. You don’t have to around him for five minutes to get that. He knew this week that Ohio State, Wake Forest and Arizona were all better situations than the one that was wide open to him at Tennessee.
Tennessee is a cess pool right now. Toxic by collegiate sports standards. Bruce Pearl thought so highly of his boss that, at the first sign of trouble, he lied to the man. The man Pearl lied to about the recruiting violations that ultimately got him fired, is the same man who’s responsible for the Lane Kiffin fiasco. It’s better than even money that the Tennessee athletic director, Mike Hamilton, is gone before the next basketball game. So why listen for a moment to any offer he, or his school had on the table.
Eight years, $16 million dollars, according to CBS Sports. That was the offer that Tennessee was dangling in front of Mack. Heady stuff for a guy who’s been a head coach just two seasons. Big time money, the kind that would take care of his family for life, even if he never earned another dollar after that deal.
Mack had the brains to say no. Or knowing Mack, the brains and the politeness to say “no thank you”
We’re all tempted by the greener grass on the other side of the fence. Sometimes, we jump over the fence to get to it. I did. Maybe you’ve done it once or twice yourself. I know when I got there, the grass I left behind looked pretty good. Maybe Mack had that figured out all along.
I asked a coach once, not long ago, when none of them seem to honor contracts anymore. Why a guy signs a five year deal at one school, and two years into it is moving on to someplace else. I told him it seemed sleazy to me. His answer startled me a little bit. He said coaches do that, because school presidents and athletic directors have no commitment to a coach beyond the piece of paper that both parties sign. One or two bad seasons, and all of a sudden the school starts looking for a new coach, because the boosters, the money guys who keep an athletic department afloat get antsy. If the school will do it, the coach reasoned, than he had to play the same game too.
Maybe that’s why Matta, Prosser and Miller took off. Probably not, Xavier doesn’t strike me as that kind of place. Maybe they didn’t think they could ever get to a final four with Xavier, let alone win a national title. Matta and Miller are still searching for that. Prosser, of course, is no longer with us.
Maybe Mack sees something at Xavier that they didn’t. Maybe that’s why he said ‘no’ this week. Other schools will come after him, maybe not this year, but soon. The right offer may bring a different answer next time.
But this time, Mack gave the right answer. This time, it wasn’t about the money. It was about the ‘fit’. If you’re a Xavier fan, your coach just turned down more money than you’d make in ten lifetimes. You oughta feel good about that.
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