LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's finally here.
226 days after Chris Mack was officially hired at UofL, he'll guide the Cards in a game at the KFC Yum! Center as they tip off the 2018-19 season hosting Nicholls State (1-0).
"Our guys are excited to play, you know it's very early in the process," Mack said.
He went 215-97 in nine seasons as the head coach at Xavier.
"I'm excited, if you're a player I don't know how you can't be excited," he added. "They're probably sick and tired of playing against each other. They've been doing that all summer, all fall, all preseason, so I think for them. Usually players after about three or four days, they feel like they're good to go, and coaches usually three or four months in preparation for their first game, it seems like. It's about time we start to play somebody else."
The Colonels already have a game under their belt. They beat Mississippi College 86-58 on Tuesday night. Grad transfer Jeremiah Jefferson scored a game-high 28 in his Nicholls debut, and fellow grad transfer Gavin Peppers added 20. Nicholls is coached by Austin Claunch, at 28, the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I basketball.
"What we've seen on tape is what we feed our guys and that's a team that we have to do a good job against taking care of the ball because they want to turn you over, they want to play with tremendous pace. They're going to try to shoot shots in transition," Mack said.
The announced crowds at the KFC Yum! Center were just over 14,000 for exhibition wins over Bellarmine and Simmons College, and Mack hopes for a full house on Thursday night.
"I'd like it to be rockin', I'd like there to be 22,000 people in red," he said. "I'd like this place bouncing off the walls, but at the same time I recognize that we have to earn that."
He is just the fourth head coach in the last 48 years, joining Hall of Famers Denny Crum and Rick Pitino and former UofL player David Padgett, as UofL head coaches. Mack is also trying to work out his new pregame routine.
"It's been thrown out of whack, I've been at the same place for 14 years, so I'm trying to learn that pregame habit."
The Cards and Colonels tip off at 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network Extra.