LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It was a curious moment. Vince Tyra was addressing the largest gathering of University of Louisville fans he has faced since being named acting (and now interim) athletic director Monday at the annual women’s basketball tipoff luncheon.

He was thanking a list of people when he came to interim U of L president Greg Postel, and after he said Postel’s name, the reaction was mixed. There was a smattering of applause. There was a smattering of boos. I’m not good at judging these things. Let’s just say you could hear both distinctly.

It certainly did not come as news to Postel that firing a popular longtime athletic director would not be a popular decision. It did come as confirmation that the university, for whatever else it has done during the current crisis, hasn’t made its case clearly to the fan base for the actions it has taken.

I have criticized the university leadership for that, and have predicted that the university as a whole would pay a price for that. But just because they haven’t outlined specific grounds for dismissal doesn’t mean they don’t have them.

I’d caution people to proceed with care on this issue. You can look pretty bad sometimes when the rest of the news drops. That, folks, is said by someone with experience in being wrong.

It was telling that after that little moment, when women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz stepped to the podium, he too added his thanks and support to the interim president, and this time the negative reaction did not occur.

“If you haven’t taken the time to look around, what a remarkable crowd we have here supporting these wonderful young women,” Walz said, opening his remarks to the crowd of about 1,000 at the Downtown Marriott. “It has been an interesting few weeks, but these young women have stayed focused, taking care of business in the classroom and working extremely hard on the basketball court. I’d like to follow up on what Vince said, I’d like to thank Dr. Postel for being here today. Christine Herring, who I call my boss, no offense, but she’s my direct report, our senior women’s administrator. I’d like to thank all the senior staff for being here today.”

And then Walz, who it should be noted, did not sign a letter of support for Jurich when the board of trustees was weighing his fate, stopped for a minute to remember his former boss.

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t just give a shout out to Tom,” Walz said. “Eleven years ago, it was here, in the Marriott, having breakfast, when he sold me on the University of Louisville, sold me on what this place could become, what we could do as a women’s basketball program. And I’m forever grateful for Tom for giving me the opportunity to be the head coach here. It’s interesting, because a lot of people have been like, ‘Don’t go, don’t go.’ You know what? Tom sold me on Louisville, not Tom, but on Louisville, because that’s what he cared about. This is home for me. Two of our children were born here. . . . I’ve said it and I truly mean it, I plan to retire here or get fired here, it’s one or the other.”

Postel wasn’t the only notable visitor to the women’s luncheon. Men’s basketball coach David Padgett entered the room to a large cheer.

“We appreciate David being here,” Walz said. “I’ll tell you this about their team, basketball is going to take care of itself. What I can tell you is that they are a wonderful group of young men, as polite as any group I’ve ever been around. If we bring someone over to watch practice, they will step off and come over and introduce themselves. Not only do they represent us extremely well on the basketball floor, but they represent the university extremely well off the court, and I think that speaks well for David.”

Of his own team, Walz said he likes its returning experience, and talent. And why shouldn’t he? How often do you have a conference returning player of the year, and the preseason player of the year, and it’s two different players?

That’s what Walz has with Myisha Hines-Allen back as a senior and Asia Durr as a junior. Hines-Allen averaged 13.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game last season, and won the ACC player of the year award after her sophomore season in 2016, when she averaged 17.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

“This is the best shape she has been in in the four years that I’ve been here,” Walz said of Hines-Allen. “In her freshman year, she had one way to stand after every sprint, and that was just barely hanging on. And now she is leading us in our sprints. She is out there trying to be a leader for us. I’m really excited for what this is going to be for her senior year.”

Durr averaged 19.2 points per game last season and made 119 three-pointers, second-best in the nation. She spent the summer with Walz competing for Team USA’s U-23 squad in Tokyo.

“The opportunity to go out and compete with the national team is something she’ll never forget,” Walz said. “You’re out there competing with the best of the best. When they run a sprint against each other, there is no time put on the clock. You don’t worry about making it in a certain amount of time. They’re all working to make the national team. They’re trying to be an Olympian. Their goal is to beat the person next to them. And if you don’t give it everything you have, you’re not going to. They compete to see who is the first one out on the floor to get shots up. Everything they do is competitive. And I think Asia benefited tremendously from having the opportunity to be with those players, to be a part of that, and hopefully she’ll bring some of that back to our team.”

As for who looks best in practice, Walz gave the nod to neither of his headliners, but to Sam Fuehring, a 6-3 junior forward who averaged 3.6 points and 2.5 rebounds off the bench.

“No offense to the rest of the players, but Sam is probably the most impressive player that we have right now in practice,” Walz said. “She has really spent a lot of time on her game. She is absolutely an impact every day in practice.”

The Cards also return point guard Arica Carter, a junior who sat out last season.

“She made more three-point shots in one day of practice than she did her entire freshman year,” Walz said. “AC, 0-for-15, is that correct, your freshman season (she went 16-for-39 as a sophomore)? She has really put a lot of time in the gym and worked on her game, and I really believe that her sitting out this past year was something that she doesn’t realize the benefit that she’s going to get from that.”

Louisville opens the season at home on Nov. 10 against Southeast Missouri in the first round of the women’s Preseason NIT. Single-game tickets for women’s basketball are on sale now at $10 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 55+ and $6 for youth under the age of 18.

Fans can purchase single-game tickets online at ticketmaster.com, by calling 502-852-5151 or by visiting the ticket office at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Reserved season tickets start at $68,  or a full-season CardsPass is available for $65, where fans will receive the best available seat on a game-by-game basis.

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