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Louisville Men's Basketball Head Coach Hot Board 1.0

Here are some of the more likely candidates to replace Chris Mack as the head men's basketball coach of the Cardinals.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Chris Mack has officially coached his last game for Louisville.

On Wednesday, the university officially approved a separation agreement with the Cardinals' men's basketball head coach.

Louisville is currently in the midst of a disappointing 11-9 campaign and 5-5 in the ACC, and has lost five of their last six games. Mack ends his tenure with the Cardinals sporting a 63-36 overall record.

Related: Chris Mack: 'I Loved My Time at Louisville'

Assistant coach Mike Pegues will assume duties as the interim coach for the remainder of the 2021-22 season, and a national coaching search is sure to be underway soon.

Below are the names for eight individuals that are very likely candidates to be the next head coach of the Cardinals. Candidates in alphabetical order by last name:

Mike Boynton

Oklahoma State head coach

Record at OSU: 82-66
Overall head coaching record: Same

In this day and age of college basketball, you need someone who is an elite recruiter, and Boynton checks that box. Since November of 2018, Oklahoma State has signed eight four-star prospects and three five star prospects - including No. 1 overall player Cade Cunningham, who went on to become a First Team All-American and No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick.

While Boynton is a proven recruiter, the Cowboys have not had an overwhelming amount of success. OSU has been to the tournament once in his first four years, in 2021 as a No. 4 seed, but they were upset by 12th-seeded Oregon State in the round of 32. Boynton's teams have exhibited defensive success, but their offense has lagged behind, especially this season.

Mick Cronin

UCLA head coach

Record at UCLA: 55-24
Overall head coaching record: 420-195

Everywhere Cronin has gone, he has had success. Spanning from his early days at Murray State, to his alma mater of Cincinnati, and most recently at UCLA. Not only has he made multiple NCAA Tournament appearances at each stop, but has also been named conference Coach of the Year once with each program. Not to mention that he has Louisville ties, serving as an assistant under Rick Pitino for two seasons.

One caveat is that, while Cronin gets to the NCAA Tournament, he hasn't taken his team far. Out of his 12 trips to the Big Dance, he made it past the first weekend just twice - although his most recent trip in 2021 did end in the Final Four, and this season's Bruins look poised to make another deep run.

Scott Davenport

Bellarmine head coach

Record at Bellarmine: 389-126
Overall head coaching record: Same

If Louisville is unable to secure any of their big name targets, it wouldn't be unheard of to try and go after Davenport. He's a Louisville native, served as an assistant coach under both Denny Crum and Rick Pitino, and has the passion to needed to be able to help Louisville weather the inevitable NCAA storm.

Plus, he's not a half bad coach, as most Louisvillians already know. He's Bellarmine's all-time winningest coach, won the Division II Championship in 2011, and has kept the Knights above .500 during their first two years of their transition to the D1 level.

Eric Musselman

Arkansas head coach

Record at Arkansas: 59-24
Overall head coaching record: 169-58

Ranging from the college ranks to the NBA, Musselman has an extensive background in coaching the game of basketball. Prior to his current stint with Arkansas, he was the head coach at Nevada, has been an assistant at LSU and Arizona State, as well as the head man at the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.

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In just his third year with the Razorbacks, he has already shown he is an elite college coach. He led Arkansas to the Elite Eight in 2021, and has signed two top-ten recruiting classes - including the No. 2 class of 2022 that includes McDonalds All-Americans Nick Smith Jr. and Jordan Walsh.

Nate Oats

Alabama head coach

Record at Alabama: 55-29
Overall head coaching record: 151-72

For Louisville fans wanting the up-tempo offense that they thought they were getting when Chris Mack brought on Ross McMains, Nate Oats is your guys. Between his current run at Alabama and his four-year tenure at Buffalo, Oats' offenses have been top 30 in tempo all but one season, with the overall efficiency finishing in the top 40 in every one of the past five seasons.

Every one of his recruiting classes with the Crimson Tide has ranked in the top 25, including a No. 3 ranking in 2022 led by McDonalds All-American Brandon Miller. Musselman led the Tide to the Sweet 16 in 2021, but they have underperformed so far this season, as they currently sport a 13-7 record.

Kenny Payne

New York Knicks assistant coach

Record at Knicks (as assistant): 65-60
Overall head coaching record: 0-0

Payne might be the most polarizing entry on this list, but also could be the frontrunner for the job. A member of the Cardinals' 1986 championship team, he is universally lauded amongst former players and alumni. He spent 10 years as an assistant to Kentucky head coach John Calipari, six as the associate head coach, and cut his teeth as an elite recruiter with the Wildcats.

But the reason Payne is so polarizing is because he has zero head coaching experience. He has been with the Knicks since 2020, and had a stint with Oregon as an assistant there before landing at Kentucky, but that's the extent of his coaching resume. It's a big gamble, but it could be what brings Louisville back to relevance.

Bruce Pearl

Auburn head coach

Record at Auburn: 138-92
Overall head coaching record: 600-237

This is *the* hot name amongst the fanbase when it comes to this coaching search, and for good reason. Pearl currently has Auburn sitting atop the AP Top 25 Poll as the No. 1 team in the nation, led the Tigers to their first ever Final Four back in 2019, and has a successful stint as the head coach at Tennessee in the mid-late 2000's.

The main problem is that Pearl carries a fair amount of NCAA baggage. He was fired from the Volunteers for hosting Aaron Craft at a BBQ during an unofficial visit - which in hindsight is not a big deal - but also had an assistant coach at Auburn, Chuck Person, get tangled up with the Adidas corruption scandal in 2017.

Kelvin Sampson

Houston head coach

Record at Houston: 184-66
Overall head coaching record: 684-336

It might be difficult to pry Sampson away from Houston, especially given that he is 66-years-old, but it wouldn't hurt to at least reach out. Even after losing two starters due to injury, Houston has remained one of the top teams in college basketball, sporting a No. 7 ranking and 17-2 record.

His success spans well beyond this year. The Cougars have been ranked inside the KemPom top 20 since the 2017-18 season, and was a two-time Coach of the Year during his time at Oklahoma. His stint at Indiana might have been cut short by NCAA violations, forcing him to coach in the NBA for several years, but the violations in question - impermissible phone - are extremely minor in retrospect.

(Photo of Kenny Payne: Mike Weaver - Special to the Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC)

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