University of Louisville men’s basketball head coach Chris Mack met with the media on Tuesday afternoon. He discussed how he has been keeping in touch with his players, what he has talked about with them, and how the future of his team has been impacted by COVID-19.
“The future is a little bit cloudy for everybody, really in every profession,” said Mack.
In his second season with the Cardinals, Mack guided Louisville to a 24-7 overall record and a 15-5 ACC mark in 2019-20, which tied UofL for second in the regular season standings before the postseason was cancelled due to health concerns surrounding the coronavirus. It was the best overall record through 31 games for a Louisville team in six years and marked the most conference victories for the Cardinals in their six years in the ACC.
“April is usually a time for us to do home visits, and to collect information on various AAU teams,” said Mack. “This April, we were supposed to have two live periods. April is what we’re dealing with in the immediacy. Not just in recruiting, but with our own team and making sure our players are safe and that they’ve created a routine that we’ve helped them with back home. How it plays out with June in terms of high school camps, July with AAU, really remains to be seen. We’re going to have to follow the guidelines of whatever happens with the NCAA. In the meantime, we’re probably watching more film of high school kids than ever before. We’re on the phone like mad men, with grad transfers, traditional transfers, and high school kids.”
Since Mack has been at Louisville, grad transfers have played a major role in his teams, with players like Christen Cunningham and Khwan Fore two years ago and Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble this past season. That trend looks to continue next season.
“In 2020, roster volatility is greater than it’s ever been,” said Mack. “When I first got into this 20, 21 years ago, you traditionally had your four classes. Seniors graduated, incoming freshmen came in. With the advent of the graduate transfer rule, with kids opting to transfer more than ever before as either underclassmen or graduates, your roster is a lot more volatile than it was years ago. There may be some years where we take a grad transfer. I would hope that we’re not in that situation every year, but our job is to make sure that we put the best team on the floor that we can.”
One factor that will have a major impact on next year’s team is John A. Logan Junior College forward Jay Scrubb. The JUCO prospect and Louisville native, who committed to UofL back in September, has yet to decide whether he will enroll at the University or head straight to the professional level.
“It’s my job to collect as much information as I can for Jay so that he, his dad and the people who care about him make the best decision that they can,” said Mack. “I’ll be supportive of it either way. It’s very preliminary right now, because they still haven’t received the undergraduate advisory committee’s feedback yet. When they get that, they’ll probably have a better feel for what their intentions are.”
Some players on the team, such as Malik Williams, have also had time to ponder whether to test the NBA draft waters.
“I’ve had conversations with each of the guys that it’s relevant for on our team,” said Mack. “We put feedback in to get feedback for Malik. We’re still waiting on that feedback. There won’t be anybody else on our team that’s going to put their name in or won’t be part of our team next year.”
For those who are leaving, Mack has also been in contact with them about what their futures hold.
“It’s probably pointless to keep rehashing how sad we all feel about not playing in the tournament,” Mack said. “More of my conversation with our seniors has centered around how a few of them want to continue playing professionally. Other than that, just seeing how they’re doing.”
With the shut down of all athletic facilities preventing him from meeting with his team in person, Mack has had to use different means to keep in touch with his players and coaches.
“It’s just different.” said Mack. “I’m used to just the daily interactions. Now it’s a FaceTime call, and you don’t see the guy the rest of the day. It’d be nothing for me to run into Quinn Slazinski three or four times a day. Now it’s only initiated if we make a phone call. So, it’s different. I don’t like it, but we’re all in this situation together.
When asked about Jody Demling of Cardinal Authority, who is currently in the hospital battling COVID-19, Mack talked about how the news really hit home for him and his family.
“I knew Jody before I came to Louisville,” said Mack. “He had covered my wife when he was at the Courier-Journal. I got to know him pretty well, and that’s obviously blossomed into even more of a friendship now that I’m the coach here. It hit our family hard. It became really, really personal. It’s one thing to know about this pandemic, but when you actually find out someone that’s very close to you has it, it really makes you take a step back and just be very appreciative, and say lot of prayers to make sure that he comes through on the right end of this. It was a shock.”