Thanks to everyone who participated in this year's Banners on the Parkway postseason report cards. With the players done, we are moving on to breaking down the various facets of Coach Mack. In addition to showing how the community rated the coach on offense, defense, man management, and overall, we'll be assigning and explaining our own grades as well. If you've missed any of the previous breakdowns, check them out in our 2016: Season in Review section.
|Coach Mack: Overall||Votes||% of Votes|
|Community GPA: 3.58|
We've spent the last week or so breaking down why Coach Mack scored so well in the individual categories here. It stands to reason, then, that the final GPA for the coach is so high. With recruiting taken out of the mix and the focus just on the basketball court, Coach Mack made a noted improvement between this year and his previous years at the helm of Xavier. Gone, for the most part, were the long stretches of isolation ball on offense and the horrendous three point defense that had marred last season. Making those changes is a large part of what catapulted Xavier to their most successful regular season ever.
Coach Mack Overall: A
It can sometimes be difficult to quantify coaching in basketball. Baseball presents easier methods for identifying who is and isn't a good manager. Does your team sacrifice bunt? That's quantifiably the wrong thing to do. An obviously exhausted pitcher gets left in to face Robinson Cano? Bad call, bad result, easy analysis. Basketball isn't like that. Aside from the obvious torpedoing of a program by playing the walk-ons all the time or becoming a founding member of the AAC, it's a lot harder to sit down and pick apart where a basketball coach is or isn't failing. Bad timeouts can be seen, a defensive adjustment that needs made and isn't can stand out, but you have to be observant to catch those things game in and game out.
That leaves a couple of easy ways to paint with a broad brush and see if you have a bad coach or not. One is seeing whether your coach has just flat out cost his team a game by, say, letting them celebrate instead of guarding UConn's inbound play. Xavier lost a grand total of five times this year. The Villanova game goes immediately out the window because Coach Mack focused on what was important there, letting Edmond Sumner's parents know he would be ok and consoling Sumner's obviously shaken friends, and let the game slide. Frankly, Coach Mack bearing down in that game would have been crass. It's to his credit that he didn't.
That leaves Georgetown, Creighton, Seton Hall twice, and Wisconsin. Xavier had a 91% chance of winning the Wisconsin game with 11 seconds left. What happened after that isn't really the fault of anyone so much as it is Brandon Koenig's life peaking at the worst possible time for the Musketeers. Even Coach Mack's debated call to give the ball to Ed paid off with a bucket had the referee not continued to be just as bad as officials were all year. Against Georgetown, Tre Freaking Campbell went 5-7 from behind the arc despite Xavier throwing every possible defense at him and the Musketeers lost a game in which they only turned the ball over five times.
Creighton was an abomination. Myles Davis didn't score, Trevon Bluiett had four, and Remy Abell had an offensive efficiency of zero. Everyone takes blame there, but it doesn't land solely on a coaching call. That leaves only the Seton Hall games. While Xavier could have, arguably, won both of them, it wasn't bad coaching, a misplaced timeout, or some terrible offensive strategy that cost them either time. In short, Coach Mack didn't lose Xavier any games this year.
The other way to easily rate a coach is to see where his team finished compared to where it was predicted to finish. At the start of the year, most publications had Xavier as third or fourth in the Big East. The coaches and media of the conference had the Musketeers fourth. Even here at Banners we had them in a tie with Georgetown. To put the lie to all of that, Xavier won their first 12 games, stormed into the top 10 in December and never fell out. The Musketeers spent significant time ranked as the fifth best team in the nation after being picked to finish fourth in the their own conference. That's a reflection not just on the players, but on the coach. Coach Mack won the Henry Iba Award for his work with this team, and based on where they started compared to where they finished it's easy to see why.
Those are just the quick and dirty ways to quantify coaching, but there are many more examples of why Coach Mack was a cut above this year. The three point defense was a trainwreck the previous season but improved the point teams only shot 31.3% against the Musketeers from deep this year. The 1-3-1 went from being a gimmick against Providence to a legitimate defensive weapon. Two freshman in Edmond Sumner and Kaiser Gates were major parts of the team without either really hitting a serious wall. That all speaks to excellent coaching, and that's without getting into the development of James Farr.
Coach Mack deserves his A for what he did this year. That raises the bar for what he'll have to do next year, but it demonstrates more how well things came together for the Musketeers. There may come a day when the coach of Xavier is expected to be in the top 10 consistently and lose no more than five games a year. If that day comes, it will come on the back of what Chris Mack did this season.