BOZICH | Padgett, Davenport, Eaves ... Louisville basketball hire a mysterious challenge
Hiring a Division I basketball coach, even an interim coach, is always a challenging, but rarely as challenging as the one Louisville faces this week.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Three people I trust told me if the University of Louisville basketball players are given a legitimate voice in deciding who will coach them this season, they want David Padgett as the team’s interim guy to replace Rick Pitino.
In Padgett, they trust. Padgett, they know.
I am not surprised a source said Padgett was given an opportunity to share his credentials and vision for the position Thursday.
Padgett knows the players’ personalities, work ethic, strengths and flaws. He knows the style and motivational buttons that will fit this group, a group that looks like a Top-25 team even if freshman Brian Bowen does not play.
He knows Pitino’s system because Padgett played it and Padgett coached it. That’s not the only coaching tree in Padgett’s DNA. His father, and a grandfather, were coaches, too.
I believe Padgett would be a fine choice because he’s a determined and analytical guy who also is a tireless worker. Other coaches have predicted Padgett will be a successful coach at a major Division I program one day.
The Pitino connection is considered a minus not a plus by some in the current environment at the University of Louisville. If the plan is to send a message that it’s time for significant change, that’s a tough sell with a former Pitino player who has been on the staff since 2014.
Finding an interim coach in 48 hours or less under these conditions is a super-sized puzzle, as complicated and controversial as a coaching hire can be. Even the strongest candidates have legitimate flashing lights. The call for somebody without NCAA issues in his background is magnified because of what the program has endured already.
I throw a name up. You shoot it down. You throw one up. I shoot it down.
There’s so much uncertainty, anger, disappointment and conflict here that even the most reasonable candidates have to wonder if they risk walking their careers off a ledge.
“If they do it right, they’ve got to be looking at a two-year interim coach,” one former Division I coach said.
“This thing (with the federal investigation and likely follow-up NCAA investigation) is just getting started. That’s how long it’s going to take until you know what you’re facing, before you bring this thing back – two years.”
Scott Davenport at Bellarmine? Jerry Eaves and Butch Beard, former Division I and NBA coaches with long connections to U of L basketball and the community? Other former Division I coaches currently on the sidelines?
Make your pick. Defend your choice.
Scott Davenport? He has a great job at Bellarmine University. In July, Davenport signed a contract extension that was supposed to take the coach into retirement.
But the word is that if U of L called, Davenport would listen. Wouldn’t anybody who loves U of L as much as Davenport does?
How much does Davenport earn as the Bellarmine coach? Maybe $150,000? Bump it up to $200,000. Offer him $1 million to coach the team for a year, and that’s the five-season ride into retirement that Bellarmine offers.
Davenport has a Pitino connection, working on his staff when Pitino arrived from Boston in 2001. Plus, U of L would be asking him to walk away from a program he built for a caretaker interim job. At Bellarmine, Davenport is The Guy.
Have I mentioned that is going to be a process that is going to make people scream and wonder what is going on?
Tom Crean? Available. A source told me that Crean is about to begin a new career as an analyst with ESPN. Crean worked relentlessly as the head coach at Marquette and Indiana.
With all the noise swirling around college basketball, sneaker companies and federal investigators, that is a Stop Sign for any candidate – Crean, Thad Matta (Ohio State), John Thompson III (Georgetown), Lorenzo Romar (Washington).
Nobody knows which programs will be pulled into the pile with Louisville, Arizona, Oklahoma State, USC, Auburn, Alabama, Miami and other programs that have bled into this mess.
Fair? Not at all.
But fairness is not the guiding principle of this story. Hiring a coach under the best conditions usually requires a search firm, lengthy background checks, multiple interviews and time for reflection and debate.
Shortening the process to 48 hours or so with all the noise and drama surrounding Louisville makes as daunting as a hire can be.
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