Mack Keeps "X" Rolling

Chris Mack's journey from his college playing days at Xavier to its head coach didn't follow a typical trajectory.

When Mack finished his playing days he didn't move directly to the college bench, but instead took a job coaching at an all-girls high school in Ohio. From 1992-1999, Mack was a girls basketball coach at the high school level. He coached at two separate schools during that time and received the 1996 coach of the year of the award from the Cincinnati Post.

Mack got his break into the college game when the late Skip Prosser hired him to be Director of Basketball Operations at Xavier in 1999. Mack following Prosser to Wake Forest two years later, becoming an assistant coach for the Demon Deacons where he stayed until 2004. Wake went to three NCAAs tournament and one Sweet 16 in the three years that Mack was an assistant.

When Sean Miller took over for Thad Matta at Xavier in 2004, Mack took a job back at his alma mater as Miller's top assistant coach. In his five years as an assistant at Xavier, the Musketeers went to four NCAAs including one Elite Eight and one Sweet 16.

Mack became the head coach at Xavier when Sean Miller left for the Arizona in the spring of 2009. He was elevated to the head coaching position almost immediately after Miller's departure and took little time to establish himself at the helm of the program.

As a rookie head coach, Mack led Xavier to a share of the A-10 title and upset Kansas State in a double-overtime thriller in the NCAA Tournament to reach the Sweet 16. He tied the record for the most wins ever by a first-year coach at Xavier with 26 victories and was named the Rookie Coach of the Year by Basketball Times. He followed up his record-setting first season with another A-10 regular season title.

What Makes Him A Viable Candidate?
Despite his youth and inexperience, Mack has an infectious personality that has already endeared him to the national media and Xavier fans alike. He's an active Twitter user (@CoachChrisMack) and has shown a willingness to connect to his fan base in a way that would likely resonate with NC State fans.

Chris Mack

He's also won immediately and substantially, guiding the Musketeers to two conference titles in two years and a Sweet 16 as a first-year coach. Mack managed to keep nabbing recruits at Xavier despite its mid-major status, pulling in three of Scout's top 150 recruits for the 2010 season. The Xavier coaching tree has produced a lot of very successful names, and as the next coach in that line its easy to project him as the next Matta or Prosser.

Mack's ties to the state have allowed him to land quality recruits such as Dezmine Wells and Jay Canty, and he certainly understands the expectations on Tobacco Road from his time at Wake Forest.

What Makes Him A Longshot? At 41 years of age, Mack is a year younger than Sean Miller and just five years younger than Steve Alford but doesn't have nearly the coaching resume of either of those two men. And that's really what it could come down to for Debbie Yow – will she be willing to roll the dice with a coach who has so little experience at the helm of a program?

The question surrounding Mack is how much of his success is due to his own coaching prowess and how much of it is the after-effects of Miller's work at Xavier. Miller built up a strong program in his years with the Musketeers and Mack has kept the program rolling along, but with just two years under his belt its tough to project how successful he'll be at sustaining the program for the long haul or rebuilding at a program such as NC State.

There's also some speculation that Mack would be tough to pull away from the school where he was a two-time captain as a player. To many it would appear that Mack has already landed his dream gig as the head coach of his alma mater, so it could take some extra persuading for Mack to change jobs and come to Raleigh.

Pack Pride's Take
Xavier has produced four successful head coaches in a row – Pete Gillen, Prosser, Matta and Miller. There's no reason to believe that Mack won't be the fifth in that line, but he hasn't had a lot of time to prove himself one way or the other. That also brings into question who doesn't win at Xavier? It's a great situation in a winnable conference.

Experience is likely to rank high up on Yow's list of priorities, and that makes it tough to see Mack as a first option. However, if Yow is looking for young blood to build the program regardless of experience, Mack could be one of the top choices available.

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