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Idle ruminations on Coach Mack in light of Austin Nichols

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Coach Mack and Josh Pastner were hired within days of each other. Six years later, their programs are headed in different directions.

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On April 6, 2009, Memphis hired Josh Pastner to take over for the recently departed John Calipari as the head basketball coach at Memphis. Eight days later, Xavier hired Chris Mack to step into the gap left by Sean Miller. (Side note: I wouldn't hug Sean Miller for the way he left X, but the contrast between him and Calipari reminds us that he could have done the program significantly dirtier.) Thus were Mack and Pastner connected in the collective mind of the college basketball media, cut and pasted into some document somewhere to bring out whenever a big name (or just big money) program had an opening and everyone was scrambling for a hot take.

Maybe it's just me, but I always felt Pastner got a little too much love from the media as the boy genius coach who was about to take his program to the next level, a veritable Brad Stevens of the mid-south. Within the last year or so though, more people have started questioning why the attention-grabbing array of talent Pastner usually brings onto campus hasn't translated into anything bigger.

This came to a head over the past couple of weeks with the Austin Nichols saga. If you haven't heard, Nichols requested a transfer out of Memphis in June, which falls very late in the recruiting cycle. The program first turned him down, then restricted him heavily, then finally granted him a full release. This didn't happen until the Nichols family got a lawyer involved, who called the whole episode "a calculated effort by a dysfunctional staff to punish a player for taking a step to remove himself from a failing program."

Meanwhile, Mack keeps steadily moving the chains for Xavier. It's clear that - at this point in time, at least - Mack is looking better than Pastner. The reality is that, with 5 tournament appearance to Pastner's 4, an average year-end KenPom ranking of 43 to Pastner's 53, and 3 Sweet 16s to Pastner's 0, Mack has been outperforming his Memphis counterpart from day one.

This probably doesn't mean too much in the grand scheme of things. Of course the Nichols family is going to have bitter words towards Memphis, and it's certain that the Crosstown fight or the Dez Wells issues could have turned into a similarly ugly scene for Xavier. Coach Mack is never more than a two-game losing "streak" from having people calling for a change at the top; I think a reasonable assessment of the facts indicates that Xavier (and Xavier fans) should be pleased on the whole with the man in charge.