Let the Chris Mack era begin at Louisville

While acknowledging some issues, Chris Mack chooses to look forward at Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

All the flack endured by the University of Louisville over the past couple of years was unfortunate but none of the issues did anything to dampen Chris Mack’s admiration of the UofL basketball program. His respect was such that he would leave his hometown and give up a nine-year coaching stint at his alma mater to take charge at Louisville.

Three-year-old Brayden vied with the press with his father’s attention during Chris Mack’s introductory press conference at the University of Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“This is an awesome and exciting day for me and my family, the opportunity of a lifetime,” he told the crowd of approximately 350 people at his introductory press conference at the KFC Yum! Center. “Standing here before you representing a school that has had two permanent basketball coaches since 1971., two hall of fame coaches, multiple final fours, multiple national championships, and multiple All-Americans … “

The new UofL coach was accompanied on the stage by his wife Christi, his daughters, Hailee, 11, and Lainee (12). His 3-year-old son Brayden also was there but not long, wandering the back of the meeting room where he was heavily pre-occupied with  Play Doh.

Former UofL Coach Denny Crum tells Chris Mack that he made a good decision to move his family to Louisville (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

If Mack sounded like someone living the dream, it was because he has long admired UofL basketball. “I told the UofL players it was not easy to leave a situation in which less than 24 hours ago I was in another locker room with another group of players with a lot of tears,” he said. “To leave Xavier to come here, this place had to be pretty special. And it is, very special.”

Chris Mack became Vince Tyra’s first major hire since assuming athletic director responsibilities at UofL (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Sharing his enthusiasm is his wife, the former Christi Hester, who grew up in the Louisville area. She was runner-up for Miss Kentucky Basketball as a senior at Holy Cross High School in 1996.  Runner-up to Jaime Richey, the sister of Jeff Walz, who coaches the UofL women’s basketball team.

During his nine-year tenure at Xavier University, Mack was considered a candidate for some other major coaching jobs, but chose not to leave. “Some people say, ‘Why go there (to Louisville?). He’s crazy’. I have never been afraid of a challenge. I faced a lot of adversity during my playing years (including ACL injuries in both knees).  It was a tough decision but in my heart I knew it was the right decision.”

Mack said it was not his job to look backwards but to look forward.  “I told these guys (the UofL players) that this is my final stop,” he said. “I’m never going to coach at another university, not in the NBA, or in high school. I can’t wait to get started.”

Cardinal Renaissance, rising from ashes at University of Louisville

by Steve Springer 
The year of our Lord, two thousand and thirteen, was christened “The Year of The Cardinal.”  All University of Louisville sports were flourishing.  Teddy Bridgewaters. Final Fours. Sugar Bowls. Russdiculous’s.   Terrell Floyd pick-sixes. Devante Parkers. Gorgui Diengs.  Peyton Sivas. Shoni Schimmel. Conference championships. ACC induction on the horizon. And yes, a National Championship.  Thank you Charlie Strong, Rick Pitino, Dan McDonnell, Jeff Walz.  Things could not have been better.  The architects of the aforementioned glorious age.  For over a thousand generations these coaches were the guardians of peace and justice. Before the Dark Times.  
Okay, sorry, Obiwan. So it wasn’t exactly over a thousand generations, but you get the analogy.  Everything was right a long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away. Although it has seemed like it for the last few years.
Vince Tyra has a chance to possibly usher in a renaissance, rebirth, reformation, realignment, rehabilitation, recovery, reawakening,  renewal, restoration, revival, all the other re’s that are out there that my online thesaurus forgot to include. 
Vince Tyra named Athletic Director to return University of Louisville to prominence (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Mr. Tyra has finally been anointed as Athletic Director at The University of Louisville.  A title that is sacred to the English version of knighthood basically in the kingdom of the city of Louisville. He has gargantuan armor boots to fill that were unceremoniously stripped from Sir Thomas Jurich.  The kingdom will be watching, some skeptically, some anxiously, some placated, as he takes the throne and his first decree is to anoint a new men’s basketball coach.

The bigger scuttlebutt making its way around the land is Tyra will hand the keys of the kingdom over to Minuteman Chris Mack on Tuesday.  If Mack was to continue his current trajectory, he could possible lead the men’s team back to glory.  He can build upon the castle that Crum, Jurich, Pitino have built and expand the realm and rehang the banner that was stolen by the malcontents, the dissidents, the scourge. 

How about a Cardinal that rises from the ashes with red fire instead of feathers? 

Puma Pass is inheriting the keys to the gridiron from Heisman hero Lamar Jackson.  As great as Jackson was, there seemed to be a ceiling to what the gridiron templars could accomplish under his reign, probably through no fault of his own.  Coach Petrino can now hopefully run his offense in the more traditional manner that we were accustomed to and maybe Puma can shatter that ceiling and lift the Cards into the next stratosphere, starting with a Davidesque slaying of Alabubba Goliath this fall.  Legend hints of this already happening before from days of old.

Continue reading “Cardinal Renaissance, rising from ashes at University of Louisville”

Walz impressed by Louisville champs, on and off the court

In top photo, Myisha Hines-Allen and Sam Fuehring celebrate along with Coach Jeff Walz. Above, Sydney Zambrotta, Sam Fuehring, Asia Durr, Jessica Laemmle and Arica Carter with more of the same following their NCAA regional championship win at Rupp Arena [Cindy Rice Shelton photos].
Coach Jeff Walz welcomes Asia Durr after she departs the game with 18 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

A special group of young women, with players getting along great together, adding one milestone after another, deserving everything they earn.

Before Jeff Walz arrived at the University of Louisville 11 seasons ago, the women’s basketball program had never been to the Sweet 16. He updated the record on Sunday, noting that every four-year player he has coached at UofL has been to the Final Four.

The Louisville women will so0n be hanging still another banner at the KFC Yum! Center in the near future.  A Final Four banner for sure, with still a shot at the ultimate, having already achieved one of the best seasons in the school’s history.

Jeff Walz holding Lucy and accompanied by Lola, her older sister. Those are assistants Stephanie Norman and Samantha Wiliams in background (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The Cardinals continued their impressive run in the 2018  NCAA Tournament with a dominating 76-43 win over Oregon State team in the Lexington Regional at Rupp Arena. A school record 36th win over the season against only two losses.  UofL moves to the Final Four for the third time in Coach Jeff Walz’ tenure.

The dominance was total, with the Cardinals forcing Oregon State into 17 turnovers and making only three themselves . UofL would outscore the Beavers 24-0 on turnovers.  Four of those steals coming in the third quarter when UofL would erupt, extending a seven-point halftime lead to 30 points.

Nobody wears that Final Four hat quite like Myisha Hines-Allen (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Louisville would also hold the Beavers, who were averaging nine 3-pointers a game, to only five in this one, and limiting them to only 15 field goals. Oregon State wrapped up the season with a 26-8 record.

Four Cardinals scored in double figures, led by 18 points from Asia Durr, the regional’s Most Outstanding Player.  Myisha Hines-Allen scored 16 points and made three steals. Sam Fuehring scored 14 and Carter added 10. Jazmine Jones scored all four of her points during that explosive third quarter.

 While Walz was thrilled with the effort, he said he was even more impressed with his team’s performance off the floor. “We truly do have young women who are wonderful role models to my children,” he said, pausing to gather himself. “That means more to me than winning basketball games.

“When my daughter is out there in the yard and tells me she’s Lola Hines-Allen, my other daughter tells me she’s Lucy Durr, and she tells mom ‘You’re going to be the official.’ The impact our players have on their lives means everything to me.

“It’s a wonderful experience to get back to the Final Four, and I want to thank the players for being the kind of people they are.”

Louisville women just having fun in win over Stanford

Myisha Hines-Allen cheering on her teammates from the sidelines in a milestone win over Stanford (Cindy Rice-Shelton photo).

Three hours before his team’s first game in the Lexington Regional, Jeff Walz bounded out of a Hilton Inn on South Broadway, headed in the direction of Star Bucks at the intersection. Getting out there with the people, excited, enjoying the moment.

The University of Louisville coach, not one to wait behind the scenes, shaking hands with some surprised fans. Walz wanting to kill time before the game, making small talk, thanking people for their support and best wishes.  

Jeff Walz with Lucy, his youngest daughter, just minutes before tipoff in an NCAA Regional game (Courier-Journal photo).

Fast forward to just a few minutes before tipoff, and there’s Walz sitting on the sideline with his youngest daughter in his lap. Smiles on both of their faces, the coach singing along to a song by Journey on the public address system. This was a game the UofL coach was going to enjoy, knowing his team was prepared. His confidence would be rewarded a couple of hours later with Louisville prevailing in an 86-59 decision over Stanford.

Afterwards a reporter asked Walz about the father-daughter time before tip-off, wondering whether or not the coach should have been stressed before the game. 

Asia Durr back on her game, leading all scorers with 24 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

“Not one bit,” he replied. “We’ve done all of our work, and then my time comes when the game starts. Before that, I’m not one of those, you can’t talk to me, don’t do that. Again, that’s why I love coaching women’s basketball … Memories like that that I’ll be able to sit there and share with her in 10 years.”

Walz actually has three daughters and will have some good times recalling with them the first game between the UofL women and Stanford, one of the most feared programs in women’s college basketball.  Memories about a close-knit team, with players he considers a family.

“Our locker room is great, and that’s what it’s been like. You know, when you’ve got players that are excited for each other and not necessarily worried about themselves,” he said.  “This group of kids, they love — they just love being around each other. They love playing with each other, and we have fun. I mean, we literally have a good time.”

Having a good time, sharing the ball, claiming a win against another big program. Four players in double figure scoring — Asia Durr with 24, Myisha Hines-Allen with 17, Arica Carter with 13 and Jazmine Jones with 10. Sam Fuehring also making her presence felt with 11 rebounds and nine points.

This UofL family enjoying every minute, having fun, making memories and staying alive in the NCAA. 

Slide show courtesy of Cindy Rice Shelton. Do yourself a favor and click on a photo for a slideshow:

Youth vs legend: Walz vs. VanDerveer

Young Jeff Walz will have his hands full as the University of Louisville women’s basketball team squares off against Stanford and  Tara VanDerveer, one of the industry legends.

The 64-year-old VanDerveer, who was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2011, has compiled an amazing record of 1,045 wins and 241 losses in 39 years. She has won two national championships at Stanford, been selected national coach of the year four times, and named Pac 12 coach of the year times. She has won 884 of those games during her 32-year tenure at Stanford. Prior to that VanDerveer coached two season at Idaho and five seasons at Ohio State. 

Walz, 37 years old, has won 297 games and lost 95 in 11 seasons at UofL, having guided his teams to seven trips to the NCAA’s Sweet 16 and two NCAA runner-up finishes. His teams have averaged 26 wins per year, with more than 30 wins three times, including the 32-2 mark this season and during the 2008-09 and 2013-14 seasons.

Stanford is familiar with Rupp Arena, returning to the Lexington Regional for the third consecutive year. Last season VanDerveer’s team overcame a 20-point deficit to Notre Dame in the regional championship to advance to the Final Four.

This is the first meeting ever between the two schools. A win over VanDerveer would get the series off to a good start and would be a major milestone for the Louisville coach.