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Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

The Student News Site of Saint Xavier High School

Xavier News

Louisville Basketball HC Candidates

Mason Sedelmeier

Two seasons in, the Kenny Payne era has mercifully ended for the University of Louisville.

After Payne led the Cardinals through an utterly disgraceful stretch, Louisville Athletic Director Josh Heird has finally made a change at the head coaching position. He described this past season as “consuming.” Louisville, a top-of-the-line collegiate basketball program, hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2017. Since then, the team hasn’t been the same for obvious reasons ranging from scandals to coaching predicaments.

Once Chris Mack was let go in January of 2022, Payne, New York Knicks assistant and member of the ‘86 Louisville Championship team, was the clear favorite among many. Payne worked under John Calipari at UK, where he was known for his role as a player relationship/development coach. Payne’s zero years of head coaching experience proved costly to a hopeful fan base.

Since then, U of L has never turned the corner. In fact, the Cards have hit rock bottom. It was not long ago when Louisville was ranked #1 nationally. Now, Louisville Basketball is essentially on life support. This ensuing decision for the University of Louisville stands as one of the most important hires in school history. A good hire will return the Cardinals to greatness. A bad hire may tarnish Louisville’s legacy for good.

Here are some candidates for the highest-pressure job in America:

Mason Sedelmeier

*coaching info/background is linked in their names

Scott Drew (Baylor)

Perhaps the most unlikely, but best option has resided in Waco, Texas since 2003. Simply put, Scott Drew is a winner. In his time at Baylor, he has been the Big 12 Regular Season Champions twice, won a National Championship, and accumulated three Big 12 Coach of the Year awards. In the last four seasons, Baylor has finished in the AP Poll no lower than #15. Drew is by far the most qualified candidate and a job like Louisville’s should fit him well. He is solely responsible for the construction of Baylor basketball, so a rebuild would not be new, or frightening to him. If there was a time Drew would leave Baylor for a new opportunity, it would be now. He would rally the fan base and make CardNation excited for men’s basketball again. While it is a stretch, I still would not be shocked to see Scott Drew in the Yum! next year. He is undoubtedly the number one option for the Cards and will get the first call from Heird. If Drew is looking for a new challenge, he should look no further.


Nate Oats (Alabama)

Oats has been a major success as a coach, not having one single losing season. Oats has made the NCAA Tournament seven times as a head coach: three with Buffalo and now four with Alabama. He brings an exciting, #1 offensive efficiency ranking in the country with him (not to mention, against the physical SEC). Oats led the Crimson Tide to the number one overall seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Also, he has won his conference tournaments in five of his eight full seasons as a head coach. A genuine problem is his near $10 million dollar buyout, which may be difficult paying when you consider Kenny Payne’s buyout. Oats most likely has zero interest in leaving Alabama because of what he has achieved (and yet to), but he still may be considered by Louisville. It would take a lot to pry Oats from the Tide, so it is very unlikely he will be a Cardinal.


Shaka Smart (Marquette)

Shaka Smart might be the most intriguing coach on the list. He’s spent his 15 years coaching across three different teams: VCU, Texas, and Marquette. Smart led the VCU Rams to the Final Four in his second season as a HC. Shaka’s six years at Texas were underwhelming to some, but he only had one losing year; his tenure with the Longhorns concluded in 2021 with a Big 12 Conference Championship. Shaka has spent the last three seasons with Marquette. He’s made the Big Dance all three times while winning the Big East Tournament in 2023. Shaka Smart is one of the most highly respected figures in college basketball and would bring great guidance and culture to the Cardinals, something that has lacked for some time. However, it would be unlikely for Smart to make the jump to Louisville because of his ties to the state of Wisconsin; it feels Smart has found his home for a while at Marquette. While he isn’t one of those names that jumps out at people, Shaka would be a tremendous get.


Mick Cronin (UCLA)

Mick Cronin is…interesting. Cronin has coached the majority of his career with Cincinnati and UCLA (after spending 2001-2003 with Louisville as an assistant). In 13 years with the Bearcats, he made the NCAA Tournament nine times, winning the American Conference Tournament twice. With UCLA, Cronin has made the Tournament three times in five years, even making the Final Four in 2021. Mick has his upsides and downsides. While Cronin is a passionate coach who has proven to be successful, his teams aren’t the flashiest and they can never get over the hump when it matters. Even more so, Cronin, a gruff and scratchy personality, isn’t the type of character that Louisville needs. His buyout, which currently sits heavy, would not be worth paying for a coach like him. While Mick is a proven winning college basketball coach (and Rick Pitino disciple), he is not up for the challenge or pressure of turning around a program of this nature. If U of L cannot strike a deal with one of their top candidates, settling on Cronin would be expected.


Dusty May (FAU)

Dusty May has soared up the coaching boards for power conference teams over the past year. This up-and-coming coach is going to get his opportunity at a big school eventually. In 2023, May won the C-USA Coach of the Year Award, led the Florida Atlantic Owls to a C-USA Conference Tournament Championship, and made the Final Four. The team finished 35-4 in one of the most incredible college basketball stories in recent years. While it took some time to get it going, May has built to Owls into an unlikely college basketball power. He has established himself as a great mind in the sport and a legitimate option to be UL’s next man. If May wants to make this jump to Louisville, he has the potential to be a great coach for the Cards. If Josh Heird cannot bring in Scott Drew, expect May to become a legitimate option.


Honorable Mention: T.J. Otzelberger (Iowa State)

T.J. Otzelberger has cemented himself as a prime college basketball coach this year. The 46 year-old has spent the past three years with Iowa State. Otzelberger’s first year leading the Cyclones was the 2021-2022 season, where he led the team to a 22-13 season and an NCAA Tournament appearance. The previous season, the Cyclones went 2-22.

They only won two games. That’s a 20 win increase in one year.

Obviously, Otzelberger can turn around a program, something Louisville desperately needs. He has had nothing but success in his time at Ames, Iowa. Currently, he is in the midst of his best season as a head coach, as he makes his third consecutive NCAA Tournament. The big question surrounding Otzelberger is whether he is ready to make a move as substantial as this. However, if the dominoes somehow ultimately fall on him being the Cards’s next coach, fans should not be disappointed.



The candidates for the Cardinals do stretch much further than these six. Jerome Tang (Kansas State), Eric Musselman (Arkansas), and Josh Schertz (Indiana State) are a few other intriguing coaches to keep an eye on in ongoing talks and rumors. It is likely that this looming selection could be made official in late March to possibly early April, as many of these candidates will be in the NCAA Tournament this month.

This upcoming hire has to be a grand slam to save Louisville Basketball and pack the Yum! Center once again. The stakes have never been higher in the Ville.

About the Contributor
Mason Sedelmeier
Mason Sedelmeier, Staff Writer
Mason is a passionate, but depressed sports fan. He is a diehard supporter of the Minnesota Vikings, all things Louisville Cardinals, and overall enjoys a majority of sports. He is still a proud organizer of the Kirk Cousins Fan Club. You might even catch him at Photo Club on Tuesdays.
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