Is Xavier due for a new head coach?

A look in on how an awful close to the season will affect the Muskies for years to come.

Seth Trischler 22

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January 12, 2021

This past Wednesday, the Xavier Musketeers lost to Butler in the first round of the Bug East Tournament in overtime. Xavier, who was on the bubble to make the NCAA Tournament, blew a lead at the end of regulation and ended up losing in OT, 89-82.

Pullquote Photo

“I thought we were the better team for 39 minutes. But unfortunately, we weren’t able to close the game at the very end.”

— Travis Steele

This game was a must win for Travis Steele and the 18-12 (at the time) Musketeers. It was said if they won this game then they would have been a lock for the tournament.

Xavier was up the entire game until the final two minutes. With their season on the line, Butler starting intentionally fouling Xavier to preserve time. All Xavier had to do was counter this move by making free throws and they couldn’t get it done. They missed and missed them. Butler tied it and it went into overtime. Then Butler ran away with it and in a matter of minutes Xavier went from probably making the big tournament to missing it. A part of an article on the game from the Enquirer stated, “A gut-wrenching loss for us,” said Xavier head coach Travis Steele, who’s watched gut-wrenching losses in the first round of the Big East Tournament for three years in a row. “I thought we were the better team for 39 minutes. But unfortunately, we weren’t able to close the game at the very end.”

Travis Steele has yet to take Xavier to a NCAA tournament as head coach of the program (via WKRC)

Instead, this will most likely be the fourth season since Steele has taken over the Muskies that they will miss the tournament. Before Steele took over as head coach, Xavier had just made program history and gotten their first #1 seed in March Madness ever. Then Chris Mack, the head coach at the time, left for Louisville and Steele took over. Now Xavier has failed to make even an appearance since then and this season is likely the last straw.

This season was said to be the most talented team Steele has coached since taking over as head coach but a too common thing happened again this year. They fell apart in the second half of the year. Believe it or not, they were 17-5 in early February. Since then they have gone 1-8, only beating Georgetown who is 0-18 in Big East games this year.

There is no excuse for this team not making the tournament this year especially with being ranked as high as 17th in the nation. It was just a complete collapse of a team and has been seen way too many times under Steele. This was a prove it or lose it year for Steele and I think unless we miraculously make the tournament he is gone.

The question is who would replace him? Here are a couple of options that I have heard:

Sean Miller

Miller was the head coach at Xavier from 2004-2009 before leaving and taking over as Arizona’s head

Sean Miller coaching for Arizona before being fired due to some recruiting issues. (Via Arizona Sports)

coach. In his time at Xavier, he led them to four NCAA Tournament appearances, three A-10 regular season championships, and one conference tournament championship. They were even as high as a three seed one year in March. Now, Miller is unemployed since being asked to part ways with Arizona due to some shady recruitment allegations. It is rumored though that he just moved back to Cincinnati which means he would not even have to move if asked to be head coach.

Chris Mack

Mack is another former Xavier head coach and player who left for bigger things. Mack was head coach

Chris Mack coaching for Louisville before they parted ways this past year (Via sporting news)

of the Muskies from 2010-2018 when he became the head coach of Louisville. Like I said before, Mack had just gotten the program to the highest it ever been then left for a forty-five minute drive to Louisville. It still baffles me why he left because he was going to get paid by Xavier but nonetheless it’s over. While Mack did get Xavier to a 1 seed in the tournament, he also took them to the elite eight. Now he does not even have a job, but I am sure he is doing fine from the buyout he got. Many people have said that he might return but of the three people I have mentioned, I think he is least likely.

Pat Kelsey

Kelsey is a former assistant on Xavier’s staff and currently is the head coach for Charleston. Kelsey has

Pat Kelsey, the head coach of Charleston, reacting to a bad call that ended their season this year. (Via Cincinnati Enquirer)

family ties in Cincinnati and even was a former player for the Musketeers. Charleston this year barely missed the tournament after a controversial charge call at the end of their game against UNCW in the CAA tournament. The only thing that I could see holding Kelsey back is the fact that this was his first year coaching at Charleston and I am sure there are some contract things that would keep him there. I think Kelsey would be a great option because like Mack, he grew up in the Cincinnati area and can relate to the fans. It would also help in recruiting people from the area. I ultimately think it’s going to end up being a bad timing type of thing.

All these coaches have one main thing in common and that they have a past connection to Xavier. One thing XU has been known to do is hire from the inside or someone that has past been with them. I think if they do decide to part ways with Steele, which I think is the right move, then I think they might be inclined to finally find someone outside the coaching staff. If they do, I hope they consider these three guys because two have already proven their worth and ability to take the program somewhere and the other will be at that level soon enough.