Chris Mack will no longer serve as the University of Louisville men’s basketball team head coach after a separation agreement was met between him and the university board of trustees and athletic association.
“Our board of trustees and our [University of Louisville Athletic Association] board members agreed that this was our best path forward, thus we’re moving forward,” U of L interim athletic director Josh Heird said. “And so with that, we have come to terms, and agreed to mutual separation with head coach Chris Mack.”
According to Heird, the monetary terms of the agreement include $4.8 million to be paid to Mack between this fiscal year and the next three.
Mack is the third high-ranking U of L employee to exit the university recently. In December, former president Neeli Bendapudi and former athletic director Vince Tyra announced their departures just hours apart.
Heird stressed that the agreement was completely mutual between Mack and the university.
“I stay in contact with representatives of our head coaches and number of assistant coaches, so we had a conversation about the state of the program, and quite frankly asked the question ‘what happens if this thing doesn’t turn around’,” Heird said.
Following a disappointing loss to Notre Dame last Saturday, Heird said the writing was on the wall.
The Cardinals’ current record is 11-9, and though they had a strong start with Mack at the helm, things have petered out recently.
The team hasn’t made it to the NCAA tournament since 2019, and Mack’s overall record with the team is 68-36 in his three-and-a-half seasons as head coach.
Heird acknowledged that the pandemic was definitely a factor, even saying that he wasn’t sure if this decision would’ve been made had COVID-19 not affected past seasons.
But he also said that the main issue was a disconnect between Mack and the team.
“Chris worked probably harder than anybody I’ve ever seen to just try and find the right levers to pull to motivate this group, and for some reason, it just didn’t seem to resonate,” Heird said.
With Mack out, assistant coach Mike Pegues will step in as interim head coach.
“Coach Pegues is ready to lead this program through the rest of the season,” Mack said in a press release.
This will not be Pegues’ first time in the role. During the beginning of the season, he had to fill in while Mack was out on a suspension.
The suspension stemmed from pay-to-play allegations made by former assistant Dino Gaudio.
When Mack didn’t choose to extend Gaudio’s contract with the team, Gaudio threatened Mack with exposing damaging information.
Mack recorded the heated exchange and turned it over to authorities, and Gaudio later pled guilty to an extortion charge in federal court based on the recording.
That did not stop Mack from becoming the focus of a level-two NCAA violation investigation, which is still underway.
Former U of L athletic director Tyra suspended Mack for six games at the start of this season.
While U of L would not have had to pay Mack at all if the NCAA investigation found wrongdoing, Heird said that the time and chance that they were wrong was not worth the possible cost. U of L would have to pay Mack more than $12 million if he was wrongly fired.
Despite the allegations looming over his exit, Mack said he looks at his time with U of L fondly.
“To wake up every day these last four years as the head coach of the University of Louisville has been an opportunity that I will cherish,” Mack said in a press release. “I don’t know what my future holds, but I do know I take away from here only the cherished memories and friends we have made in this community and this university.”
Heird did not provide a clear timeline for when a permanent head coach is expected to be hired.
“We’ll wrap it up when we find the right coach,” Heird said.