The more things change, the more, it seems, they stay the same.
In May, men’s basketball coach Sean Miller announced he was leaving to take the head coaching job at the University of Arizona, leaving Xavier to search for its fifth head coach in the last 15 years. And, after searching the country for a replacement, the University once again turned inward for the answer. Like Skip Prosser and Miller who were groomed as Xavier assistant coaches, the University promoted assistant coach and former Musketeer guard Chris Mack to the head coach’s slot.
“He won the job,” says director for athletics Mike Bobinski. “It wasn’t given to him. It was not by default. He flat earned it. Why was he the right guy? Total belief and commitment to Xavier. He’s smart, energetic, incredibly competitive, confident, his own man. He believes in what he believes in. He has a long history of winning and being successful, and that’s a habit that’s hard to get away from. And there’s no one better prepared to lead Xavier basketball in years to come as we continue on our road to success.”
“I’ve seen Xavier from every perspective,” Mack says. “Fan, camper, recruit, opponent, player, administrator, coach, now head coach. I think I’m going to like this vantage point the best. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I always believed that if I stood on my own two feet, did my job and just let the chips fall, everything would be fine. I was raised that way—if you do the right things, right things happen.”
Mack’s new challenge is to continue the streak of success that has elevated Xavier into the upper echelon of college basketball, but he already has one big factor pointing toward success: infrastructure.
From the moment Miller announced he was leaving, Bobinski began making the point: Xavier isn’t as dependant as other universities on who sits in the head coach’s office. Xavier basketball is more than its coach. It’s bigger than its coach. What’s really been the key to the success of the program is the program itself. The “infrastructure” that the program is built upon is firmly in place—the facilities such as the Cintas Center, locker rooms and weight rooms; the academic structure and discipline so the players and their parents know they’re going to graduate; the
intangibles such as charter flights, adequate recruiting budgets and scouting technologies.
These are the fundamental elements that allow a coach to step in and do what he’s supposed to do—recruit and coach. If he doesn’t have to worry about who’s academically eligible or about the team missing a commercial flight or being able to afford to fly out to recruit a player, that should translate into wins. It has in the past. And it’s one of the reasons Bobinski had far more options—and could be more selective, focusing not just on someone who knew the game but fit into the Xavier mold—on whom to hire than before. From the moment the rumors about Miller leaving started flying, Bobinski’s phone started ringing.
“Without a doubt, the level of interest is completely different with this phase,” he says. “Now, there are agents and reps who call pushing coaches, which is understandable because the coaches all want to protect themselves. But if you look at how we went about the process of hiring, it’s very similar. That didn’t change because the goal is exactly the same: get the right answer. And we did that.”