Gaudio back coaching hoops

MARTINS FERRY — Dino Gaudio didn’t hesitate when asked about his eight years working as a color analyst for ESPN’s college basketball coverage.

“It was great and very rewarding,” Gaudio said.

As much as he enjoyed calling the action for the nation’s premier teams and players, it didn’t offer the fulfillment that Gaudio’s other passion — coaching — provided during his nearly 20 years in the profession.

Now 61 years old, Gaudio realizes that he’s no spring chicken as it pertains to the coaching industry. Add all of this up and it made the decision to accept a job as an assistant coach with recently hired Chris Mack on the staff at Louisville.

“I was anxious to get back and I’ve known Chris forever, so this is a good situation for me and my family,” Gaudio, who is a graduate of now defunct Buckeye South High School and a native of Yorkville, said. “It’s getting to the point for me where I am getting up there in age and this is like one more time to do this. It was just too good of an opportunity to turn down.”

This isn’t the first time that a coach has attempted to pluck Gaudio from broadcasting. But, for Gaudio, who cut his coaching teeth at Wheeling Central, it wasn’t about the job itself. It was more about being the right job with the right head coach.

Gaudio, who has been a head coach for 10 seasons at three different schools, had other opportunities. He actually turned down a job in the Atlantic 10 several years ago, saying it “wasn’t the right situation.”

“For me, to get back into coaching, it was going to have to be the right person and the right place,” Gaudio said.

Louisville and Mack certainly meet those requirements.

Mack, who guided Xavier to a No. 1 seed in last month’s NCAA Tournament and a Big East championship, played for the late Skip Prosser and Gaudio when they were together with the Musketeers in the early 90s. After Mack’s playing career ended and he got into the coaching business, he and Gaudio sat next to one another, working under Prosser.

“Chris was with Skip and me at Xavier and then he came to Wake Forest with us, too,” Gaudio pointed out. “We kept in touch a lot since then and he’s called me a few other times and asked, ‘if I explored this job, would you go with me?'”

Finally, the right opportunity arrived for Mack to depart his alma mater where he compiled a 215-97 record in nine seasons, guiding Xavier to three conference titles, eight NCAA berths, four Sweet 16s and an ‘Elite Eight.’

And after Mack agreed to replace interim coach David Padgett with the Cardinals, one of the first calls he made was to Gaudio.

“I’ve got one more coaching run in me and this is a great place (Louisville) and with a great person (Mack) to do it,” Gaudio said.

Now the real work begins and for Gaudio that’s helping Mack and the other Cardinal staff members to re-build the Louisville brand, which is arguably listed among the best of college basketball year in and year out. Louisville, however, was mentioned in the FBI probe from last fall, which eventually cost Rick Pitino his job and cost Brian Bowen his collegiate career.

But, that’s all in the past. Louisville finished the 2017-18 season with a 22-14 record and finished ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, but missed out on a NCAA bid and played in the National Invitation Tournament.

“If we can get over the negativity of what happened here the last few years, take our time and build it the right way, you can win a national championship here,” Gaudio said. “They’ve done it before. We want to re-brand the Louisville name and bring it back to where it belongs.”

Gaudio got a good look at the Cardinals last season. He called four of their games last season for ESPN, including their NIT games.

“Getting ready for the NIT, I anticipated that (the arena) was going to be bad because everyone wanted to be in the NCAA, but the (KFC) Yum Center was off the charts. These people love basketball. These people are crazy about the game. They had between 18 and 20 thousand there that night.”

While the Cardinals play in a top-notch facility, many of the faces that Gaudio saw those nights are gone. Either via graduation or entering their names into the NBA Draft, the Cardinals are re-stocking their roster a bit. Plus, in the aftermath of Pitino’s firing and the coaching transition, a few recruits opted to go elsewhere.

“I’ve been making a ton of calls already and some of the high school kids out there I’ve not seen, but I we’re going to need a couple of graduate transfers, so that’s an area where I can really help,” Gaudio said. “We need those guys who can play immediately.”

Gaudio was back on the floor for a workout with Mack and their new players for the first time early last week. They had a few workouts, but the NCAA has rules in place toward the end of the semester, so the student-athletes can focus strictly on finals and academics.

Though he was formally out of coaching and a member of the media, Gaudio never lost touch with the Xs and Os side. He continued to work different camps and things.

“It didn’t take me too long to feel comfortable when I was out on the floor with those guys,” Gaudio said.

Gaudio’s mom still resides in Yorkville, but his father passed away in January.

“My mom still gets around really well and now being in Louisville, I’m actually closer to the Ohio Valley than I was in Charlotte,” Gaudio said. “My mom will be able to come down here and I’ll try to get back as often as I can and see her.”

Gaudio actually returned to the suburban Charlotte area this weekend in anticipation of his oldest daughter giving birth to his and his wife Maureen’s first grandchild.