The obvious off the court story line for the Gopher’s opening round game against Louisville is the connection of Richard Pitino to Louisville where he once coached as an assistant for his father, who was let go in the offseason.
But how many of you remember that the Gophers faced Chris Mack’s Xavier team back in 2010? It was Mack’s first season as the Musketeer’s coach when he lead Xavier to the Sweet 16 as a 6-seed.
But leading up to that game it was the Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan who took offense that Tubby Smith had the audacity to state that Xavier was actually pretty good and there’s a reason that they were the favored seed. But Souhan wanted nothing to do with that narrative.
This is a wonderful script, as long as you don’t think too hard about the Gophers’ self-proclaimed underdog status. Because if you think about it, embracing them as underdogs requires the same willing suspension of disbelief as watching an M. Night Shyamalan flick.
Xavier is coached by a rookie who got his job only because his predecessors bail out for bigger paychecks as soon as they can. Chris Mack’s salary is probably supplemented by free Skyline chili. Friday, for the first time, he’ll be a head coach in an NCAA tournament game.
He’ll be facing Tubby Smith, who makes millions of dollars a year and has taken four programs to the NCAA tournament. In fact, he’s taken four programs to the tournament at least twice, and he won it all with Kentucky in 1998.
Let’s hope Tubby The Titan doesn’t allow himself, or his team, to pretend to be overmatched in this game.
The point here is that Souhan, an elite basketball mind, was taking shots at Chris Mack and his team while being shocked that the 11-seeded Gophers would have the audacity to claim they were the underdog because Tubby Smith makes a lot more money.
For good measure he very selectively picked out terrible teams from Xavier’s conference at the time (while ignoring the good ones). He pointed out how we beat Butler and Butler beat Xavier (while ignoring the neutral court vs road game thing). It was a classic Souhan hack job.
But that was just the start of it. In Milwaukee, Xavier beat Minnesota by double-digits. I was fortunate enough to be there. And in the press conference after, not only did Lawrence Wesbrook thank himself for his career but Chris Mack called out Jim Souhan and thanked him for helping to motivate his team.
“We’re tired of being the little engine that could. We’re a really good program. And our kids aren’t scared of anybody. We don’t always win, but we’re not afraid to compete. And Jen and Jim Souhan -- however you pronounce his name -- from the Star-Tribune, thanks for the motivation to tell our kids that we should be fodder against Minnesota. Our kids are used to this stage. We played a lot of NCAA tournaments. We’ve been very successful. It’s my charge and our kids’ charge to continue to do that.”
Well he did do that, he did that very well, getting to the Elite Eight one year and the Sweet 16 two other times. He parlayed that into getting a blue-chip job in Louisville.
But Souhan took exception to this call out (which I guess is understandable, it was a really awkward moment in the press conference) and he doubled-down on his take that Chris Mack really didn’t know what he was doing.
In fact he even called Mack, “Whiny McBaldwimp.” Classy.
You’re welcome. I know that you don’t have the force of personality of coaching chops to inspire your players by talking to them about, you know, playing in the NCAA tournament in front of millions of fans, trying to bring glory to your school and perhaps even improving your future (sic) career options. Nope, you need a guy writing about your opponent to rally your players.
Obviously, they don’t listen to you, or you might have been able to inspire them by asking them to win one for you, the first-year, overmatched coach. So you needed a newspaper columnist to do your job for you.
I will expect you to send me your paycheck for the week for handling your job for you. I hope there’s a columnist in Pittsburgh (sic) who can help you this weekend. More likely, Jamie Dixon, a real coach who actually motivates his players all by himself, will eat you alive. Maybe some day you’ll be big-time enough to do your own work.
Chris Mack and his Musketeers beat Pitt. Chris Mack is now coaching at Louisville.
Nailed it, Jim.
Souhan “Whiny McBaldwimp” article (the second one)
This is not bulletin board material, I have nothing but respect for Chis Mack. Do your own job of motivation, Coach. You’re the favorite again.