Professor Xavier and the X-Men
Sean Miller left Xavier in the spring, reinforcing the belief that Xavier is a launching-pad program. The last four lead Musketeers, all wildly successful at the Cincinnati campus, moved on to bigger and better things.
It’s hard to blame a guy for accepting the head coaching position at the University of Arizona where the money, resources, and weather are dreamy. But once again, Xavier fans are left feeling inadequate, inferior, and spurned.
Certainly with every coaching transition comes the lurking fear, “Are we done?” or “Has our run of success come to an end?” Chris Mack takes over with no head coaching experience. He will turn 41 two days before 2010 commences.
A nice, warm feeling accompanies his ascendancy. Mack grew up in the Queen City, serving two seasons as team captain for the Xavier Musketeers. The move is adorable and heart-warming. But is it prudent?
The last 25 years of Xavier basketball have been nothing short of fanciful. Few teams nationally can challenge Xavier’s consistent superiority. Oh, how fatal the Musketeer’s sword is.
In six of the last eight seasons, which span the tenures of Thad Matta and Sean Miller, XU teams have compiled 25 or more wins.
In the 14 seasons spent as members of the Atlantic 10, XU has finished in first or second place 11 times. With Miller in tow another five years, Xavier could have easily cemented its mid-major dominance alongside Gonzaga and Memphis.
Whereas Temple dominated the 80s and UMass owned the 90s (perhaps illegitimately), St. Joseph looked to control this decade. Xavier, however, has won the last three league titles, essentially stealing the race for decade dominance at the finish line. No team can take away Xavier’s string of recent success.
It falls on Mack’s slender shoulders to maintain this crazy dream of Xavier being more just the best in the Atlantic 10. Xavier faithful sincerely believe it can be a perennial Elite 8 program. Perhaps the dream had a base in reality, as both Matta and Miller once led the Muskees to an NCAA regional final.
Unfortunately, the same level of success that the exceptional coaches brought to Xavier whisked them away to greater riches in BCS conferences.
Xavier is the equivalent of Mr. Right Now; the guy that girls enjoy dating, but would never marry. Xavier is nice for a while. It helps you become the coach you want to be. Just…elsewhere. So Xavier brought in a guy who likely will remain devoted to the program. The catch is that he will probably not achieve the same greatness for the program that his four predecessors did.
Rarely does the casual fan watch Xavier prior to February. Generally, Xavier basketball gets two to three national broadcasts before the A-10 Tournament.
Piling onto the back of a severely-burdened Mack is the difficult and visible non-conference schedule. By MLK Day, XU will hit national airwaves nine times. For an alumni-base spread across this great nation, there will be ample opportunities to judge the new guy. Countless alumni and students will be watching, hoping it’s not over; hoping the surprising success will continue.
To continue the Xavier tradition, Chris Mack simply has to win 70 percent of his games while scheduling the hardest non-conference schedule east of the Mississippi and recruiting under-appreciated, overly-motivated players into their senior seasons.
Good luck, Chris.