Former St. X and UK star Scott Padgett wanted to coach more than play in the NBA.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Scott Padgett turned 38 in April. It’s been more than seven years since Padgett scored the 1,874th and final point of his NBA career. His knees and shoulders remind him not to scrimmage with younger guys any more.
But Padgett still remembers how to split a double team. Trust me. I discovered that Friday.
Padgett is less than two months into his new job as the head coach of the Samford University basketball team in Birmingham, Ala. Considering that Padgett was recruited and then coached by Rick Pitino at Kentucky and that he worked for John Calipari at UK, I asked Padgett to help me place him in the proper Coaching Tree:
Rick or Cal?
“Hybrid,” Padgett said.
Padgett always was media savvy, the Go-To guy in the Kentucky locker room for media members every year. Thoughtful. Analytical. Humorous. Introspective. Win or lose.
I knew all the Padgett stories about how he was a Louisville kid who grew up wanting to play for Kentucky. Everybody remembers that Padgett had to put his sophomore season on hold because he treated academics as if they were optional. That’s why Padgett is missing from the 1996 NCAA championship picture.
Of course, after the fall, there was the dramatic rise. Padgett averaged 11.5 points for UK’s 1998 NCAA champs and then improved that number to 12.6 as a senior. He was drafted with the 28th pick in the first round of the 1999 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz.
But here is a Scott Padgett nugget that I did not know:
“When I was in high school the two things that I wanted were to play for Kentucky and I wanted to coach. I tell everybody that I was lucky enough to get sidetracked by the NBA but coaching was something that I knew I was going to do all along.
“I wanted to be a coach way before I wanted to play in the NBA or anything like that. I think I was a freshman (at St. Xavier High School) when coach Pitino came to Kentucky and I really got mesmerized by his style.”
Padgett understands the value of a mesmerizing style of play. He’ll need one at Samford, which has not celebrated a winning season since 2006. It’s football country and SEC country. Padgett will have to promote – and he has the king-sized personality to do that.
For two seasons, Padgett worked as an assistant to Bennie Seltzer. The Bulldogs went 11-21 in 2013 and then improved to 13-20 last season. But in late spring, Samford athletic director Martin Newton fired Seltzer. The reason? An abnormal number (14) of transfers over the last two seasons.
After initial reports that Padgett would be named interim coach, Newton rewarded him with a multi-year contract. Padgett’s debut will be in August. Samford will play three exhibition games in The Bahamas, where they’ll arrive one day after Kentucky departs.
Remember that Samford has lost 14 players over the last two seasons, including five of the team’s six leading scorers. Padgett is not inheriting Jeff Shepherd, Nazr Mohammed, Wayne Turner and Heshimu Evans.
This will be the Samford equivalent of what Rick Pitino inherited from Eddie Sutton in 1989, guys who will be asked to overachieve. So expect Padgett’s team to run, press, run a little faster, press a little harder, run even faster, press even harder.
“I have the avenue of what I’ve learned under Rick Pitino as a player and then had the avenue of learning under John Calipari,” Padgett said. “As a coach myself, I take things that I learned from guys like Jerry Sloan and Jeff Van Gundy when I was in the NBA
“I’ve been very lucky to be under some great basketball minds and I’m trying to take it and mesh it all together and make my own style of play.
“Defensively a lot like Rick Pitino -- pressing, the matchup zone. I like that style.
“Offensively I really look to push the tempo. I’m more into the NBA style of not necessarily long continuity motion offenses. I’m more into quick hitters, putting the guys in position to make plays through spacing and things like that.
“I don’t want to be the coach that they’re looking over at me every time down the court and wondering what play I’m going to call. I want this game up and down and exciting. It’s how we played when I was in school and I loved it. I think it’s a style that players are going to want to play in and fans are going to enjoy watching.
“That’s how we can build our program both from a fan standpoint and players wanting to come play for us.”
As Scott Padgett represents the Pitino and Calipari coaching trees.