Once again, it’s not good in Louisville. For a program that dealt with multiple black eyes during the Rick Pitino era, the appetite for drama is low in Cardinals Land. Chris Mack was supposed to be the safe choice, a solid coach without any baggage. He was perfectly boring. But he brought with him assistant Dino Gaudio, and that’s the reason there’s another ugly headline at UofL. “Former Louisville basketball coach Dino Gaudio federally charged with extortion.”
The history: Mack played at Xavier under Pete Gillen when Gaudio was an assistant. The late Skip Prosser hired Mack as Xavier’s director of basketball operations. Prosser left for Wake Forest in ’01, Mack and Gaudio went with him. After three seasons, Mack joined Sean Miller at Xavier as an assistant, then was promoted to the Musketeers’ head coach in ’09. Gaudio was out of coaching, doing eight years as an ESPN analyst. Then when Mack got the Cardinals job, Gaudio joined his staff.
But at the end of a disappointing season, Mack fired Gaudio. Apparently Dino had only planned to coach one more year before retiring. He was angry, felt blind-sided by a longtime ally, and in retaliation threatened to blow the cover off recruiting violations at UofL. He said he would go to the media with intel on illegal recruiting videos unless Louisville paid him 17 months worth of salary. The threat was tape recorded, and now the feds have him on an extortion charge. Nice.
It brings up two questions. First, how often does this happen in college hoops? Gaudio has been around the block. He’s been a head coach three places, and an assistant for decades. He knows how the sausage is made. Do guys who get fired routinely threaten to uncover dirt unless they get hush money? Are there coaches that just “retire” or go into broadcasting because they got paid some cash under the table to shut up and go away?
Also, how does this affect Louisville’s recruiting? Obviously, Gaudio isn’t connected to enough high school prospects to keep him around or else he wouldn’t have been fired in the first place. But the specter of more drama at Louisville will be used against the program on the recruiting trail. The recruiting wars overlap a number of places with Syracuse.
The big one is the battle for Kyle Filipowski, who is dropping jaws at summer AAU. Louisville offered him last June, and Syracuse is now hot on his trail. Luke Murray has been his lead recruiter with the Cardinals, but he was also let go along with Gaudio. SU and UofL are also chasing Zion Cruz, Ty Rodgers and Chase Westry. Cruz is an elite point guard out of New Jersey, while SU is the favorite to land Westry by many insiders.
In his three years at Louisville, Mack has made one tourney (one was cancelled), and didn’t make it out of the Round of 64 losing to Minnesota as a 7-seed. It’s a bad time for bad press. Gaudio is the one who may have committed the crime, but the potential infractions happened on Mack’s watch, and he has been a trusted lieutenant for years. It’s only creates more questions for the Cardinals.