BOZICH | David Padgett has coaching, Louisville (and Rick Pitino) in his DNA
Interim Louisville basketball coach David Padgett comes from a family of coaches -- and from the Rick Pitino coaching tree.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville administration made the first move to steer the program away from its latest stain by naming assistant David Padgett interim coach in Rick Pitino’s absence.
Padgett played for Pitino. He coached for Pitino. There was a time when athletic directors mined the Pitino coaching tree for top candidates. On Friday, the Pitino connection will inspire fist pumps and howls, praise and criticism.
Padgett will be embraced because of his work ethic and because he was the choice of the players.
Padgett will be questioned because his career record as a head coach is 0-0, and his ties to Pitino are extensive and reasonable to question.
The fussing and debate is unavoidable and healthy. The script would be the same for Scott Davenport, Jerry Eaves, Tom Crean, Kenny Payne or other names that have been debated since Tuesday.
Padgett is no dummy. He knows the critics will howl. David Padgett will not join the debate. No time for that. He’ll go to work.
As I wrote Thursday, there was no home run hire as interim coach because these are not home run conditions to hire a coach. That time will come later, after the federal investigation unfolds and the NCAA examines the necessary pieces.
The school can settle on a leader and unifier next spring without the time squeeze of the start of practice and games. To be continued in March or April.
Know this: Padgett is the coach the U of L players wanted. Padgett is the coach U of L players know.
I don’t know if Padgett has the ability to X and O with Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari and Roy Williams – or even Dave Paulsen, the guy who will be the opposing coach when Padgett coaches his first regular-season game against George Mason Nov. 12 at 2 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center.
His next game will be his first as a head coach. The staff must be rebuilt. The players must be reassured. The fan base must be rallied. That’s just the starter list.
The ability to deal with adversity is one qualification for the job. David Padgett, 32, has that. You can find it in the first paragraph of his resume.
He’s a former high school all-American who committed to play for Roy Williams at Kansas. Oops. Williams left Kansas for North Carolina before Padgett got to campus. David Padgett knows the feeling of doing nothing wrong and then losing your coach. He’s lived it.
He played one season for the Jayhawks before transferring to Louisville. His knees ached so ferociously that Pitino famously called a press conference in November to announce that Padgett would miss at least the next 10 weeks and perhaps the remainder of the season with a fracture in his right kneecap.
That was Nov. 17, 2007. David Padgett missed only 10 games that season. He led the Cardinals in scoring, finishing the season in an epic battle with Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina in an NCAA regional final.
“Two gladiators going at each other,” said Todd Howard.
I introduce Howard here for a reason. Padgett began his coaching career in 2011, working as an assistant for Howard at IUPUI in Indianapolis. Padgett served three seasons.
“David will be ready from Day One because he’ll be very good on delivering on the nuts and bolts he’ll need to do to keep the program moving forward,” Howard said.
“He grew up in a coaching family. He learned how to play the game the right way. He’ll be able to get the players’ minds to the place where they’ll be able to block out all the distractions and get back to focusing on playing basketball and representing U of L.”
Padgett learned it from his father, Pete, a successful high school coach in Nevada and California. His grandfather, Jim, served as the head coach at University of California as well as the University of Nevada.
Howard confirmed Padgett had the same credentials as a coach that he showed during his three seasons here as a player. Arrived early. Stayed late. Embraced video work. Accepted criticism. Led by example as well as with praise and criticism.
I asked Howard for one story about Padgett’s coaching career that defined his three seasons in Indianapolis. Howard was prepared to define how Padgett prepared.
“David had bad knees,” Howard said. “Some days they seemed to affect him more than others.
“We had one season when kept having guys get hurt. Seriously hurt. Eventually we had six guys taking medical redshirts. That made it tough to practice.
“David would bring his workout shoes and his basketball shoes. On the days when his knees were OK, he would get dressed and practice with us, even though there I’m sure there were some day he didn’t feel like doing that.
“He’d get on the floor and show guys how to attack a defender’s shoulder or how to be relentless as an offensive rebounder. Our players saw what David Padgett was really all about.”
Now the University of Louisville basketball players will have their chance to see it, too.
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