Bouncing Balls. Family. (And Segregation.)

It wasn’t bleeding-edge journalism, I’ll grant you that, but it had heart and an unusual perspective. It was a sweet story, and I liked it in part because I’ve lived (some of) it. What sticks with me, sticks in my craw, I guess, gums up my mental gears, is the story behind this story-behind-the-story. I’m afraid that I understand this story a little too well, and I’d love to be proven wrong. But. The sports world is often a profoundly segregated one.

Chris Mack is the men’s basketball coach at Cincinnati’s Xavier University. The X is no Kentucky, Duke, or Kansas, not what UCLA once was – legend-spawning, dynastic power programs in the world of college hoops. They’re good, though, having gone to the Sweet 16 (notching two NCAA tournament wins) three times in the past six years, one of those under Mack. That is only the background to the charming tale told by Gregg Doyel in his on-line column, though. Unlike coaching gypsies – the most notable being the ever-restless Larry Brown, now coaching his 47th team – who flit from job to job, one step away from their next firing/opportunity, Mack may be at Xavier for awhile. He is intimately tied to this university (he played there) in his hometown, and for other reasons that the article makes clear. I love it, and had I had the clarity to focus my coaching ambitions more narrowly, more competitively, I hope I would have done it Mack’s way and had his good luck, too.

The upshot is, at any rate, that he isn’t going anywhere. (Three of his predecessors at Xavier used their success with the Musketeers as the launching pad to one of the Big Jobs.) He’s got kids, and he doesn’t want to let his high-profile, high-stress job eat him as it has swallowed, well, almost every guy who’s tried it at the feverishly workaholic level of a major-level head coach. So, when he’s not on court, recruiting, breaking down film, doing his local radio gig, gladhanding with boosters, or unable to sleep because his team can’t shoot free throws, Chris Mack coaches his third-grade daughter’s house league basketball team.

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