Louisville dismissed Chris Mack as head coach of its men’s basketball team today. In-season sackings are comparatively rare, but this one did call to mind Steve Alford’s exit at UCLA three years ago.
In each case a storied program gradually and then suddenly lost all patience with a fourth- (Mack) or sixth-year (Alford) coach after a run of losing in the dead of winter. Two such episodes occurring within a relatively short span of time perhaps reminds us that being handed the keys to a blue-chip program is not only the aspiration of just about any coach. It’s also a demonstrable occupational hazard.
Denny Crum won two national titles at Louisville, but 15 years after the second championship he announced, on March 5, 2001, that he was stepping down with two years left on his contract. The decision came as a surprise inasmuch as Crum had previously stated his intention to return for another season and had even touted his incoming recruiting class. But Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich had been quoted that January as saying he couldn’t guarantee that Crum would be back. It appeared the writing was on the wall.
When Crum stated that it was his intention to depart, his team was 11-18 and had posted a 61-61 record over its last four seasons. “It was time for Denny Crum to step away,” Digger Phelps wrote at ESPN.com in reaction to the news. “Certain things happened that he just couldn’t control.”Continue reading