LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - As Dino Gaudio addressed the media on Monday, he told tales of ACC game and tournament runs like they happened yesterday.
The former Wake Forest coach remembers the overtime win against No. 9 Texas, the loss to a Calipari Kentucky team. He recounts the players, stats, lineups from across his coaching career with great clarity. He's had time to think about these games as he's been away from the game for eight years, as a broadcaster for ESPN.
Now he's joining Chris Mack's UofL staff and finds himself back in the league he loves.
"I've said it 8,000 times on ESPN," Gaudio said. "I don't care what measuring stick you use, historic, last five years, (the ACC) is the best conference in America. And that's where I wanted to be. That was the impetus and drive for me to come with Chris to Louisville."
But Gaudio's incentive to come to Louisville wasn't just the prospect of Duke and North Carolina again every year.
"You know I miss it," Gaudio. "Like every October, (Seth) Greenberg and I call each other and just commiserate because we don't have a team, we don't have a staff, and we don't have the camaraderie, you really miss it. I've had a couple opportunities in the past to come back. I've had a couple head coaching opportunities, it just wasn't the right situation."
What makes the right situation? Rejoining your conference is a good first step. Even better, joining a coaching staff with one of your best friends.
"We talk all the time, we text all the time, we vacation together," Gaudio said. "Christi (Mack) and my wife are close. When Chris told Christi we were coming, Christi called my wife and was crying because she was happy we were coming."
The Gaudios have vacationed together in St. Thomas and the Outerbanks.
But years before that, Gaudio was Mack's coach.
"I've known him since he was a high school senior," Gaudio said. "I knew what he was like as a player. Then I coached with him. And probably, the years I spent coaching with him at Xavier and at Wake meant more to me than all that he's accomplished now and he's accomplished a hell of a lot."
Gaudio is close friends with a typical adversary of the Cards, John Calipari.
He's coached at Calipari's camp, and faced off as head coaches in the past.
"Coach Cal is a good friend of mine,' Gaudio said. "I've worked the fantasy camp the last five years. He texted me the morning after (they beat Gaudio's Wake Forest team). John says that might have been his best team ever. John Wall, Bledsoe, Demarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Miller was on that team. They beat us good."
Mack notes the fire that remains in Gaudio's belly, which is evident any time he talks about the game.
I think sometimes, let's face it, sometimes guys that have been coaching for 30 plus years are just sort of winding it down," Mack said. "That's not Dino. He has more energy, more excitement, I mean I have to sort of calm him down right now with recruiting calls. He's going to do a lot for our program, I'm happy to have him."
Gaudio visited Louisville shortly before being hired, as a part of the ESPN broadcasting team for the Cards NIT games. It was during that trip, Gaudio got a firsthand account of the magnitude and voracity of Louisville fans.
Gaudio said he was staying downtown and went for a run, when he saw fans dressed in red pouring into the Yum Center for a women's basketball game and was surprised. He relayed the surprising experience to Mack after the fact.
"But I do my first game, and we're talking and I go excuse my language but 'Damn! You ought to see this place. It's unbelievable and the fans are rabid as can be'," Gaudio said.
Then later as he walked to the arena, he talked to a group of fans who had attended the women's game, gone to get a drink, and were going back for the men's game.
"And I said 'Chris, these guys want to win',"Gaudio said.
The environment inside the arena continued to impress Gaudio, who came in thinking the NIT bid would make for an abysmal atmosphere.
"They didn't get in the tournament, we all saw what happened against UVA, I'm like this place is going to be death," Gaudio said. "That first NIT game, I was shocked. So it's a great place, you can win a national championship here, great arena, all of the facilities, all of the people that are involved.. so I told (Mack), I think it's special."
Gaudio is joined in Louisville by his wife, Maureen. Together they have two daughters, Kaylen and Alyssa, both of whom live in Virginia. His youngest, Alyssa, is expecting Gaudio's first grandchild.