— Andrew Chernoff (@ADChernoff) March 30, 2018
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.
“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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
How about a Cardinal that rises from the ashes with red fire instead of feathers?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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: