CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WDRB) – University of Louisville men’s basketball co-captains Quentin Snider and Anas Mahmoud led the Cardinals’ delegation at the Atlantic Coast Conference 2017 Operation Basketball media day, and the assembled media really had just one main question: What is life like after Rick Pitino?

The Louisville coach, fired on Monday of last week, became the first head-coaching casualty of a federal investigation that implicated 10 programs, and possibly could touch more, in a pay-for-play scheme involving shoe companies, agents and recruits.

The word of the morning from the U of L players was this: Relaxed. That’s the atmosphere they describe from the team. Gone is a hard-charging Hall of Famer, and in his place is David Padgett, one of his former players, who brings a little more levity and a little less pressure where practice is concerned.

How that translates on the basketball court will have to be judged during the season. But the reception among his players right now is positive.

“Coach P had really a strong personality over everyone, not just players, but also coaches and even the university itself,” Mahmoud said. “Playing for him was really nice in games, but practice was not fun. I didn’t enjoy practice. I would have rather played games the whole year. But David Padgett is still young, he played for Coach P, and he knows what we felt like when Coach P was still coach, so he tries all the time to make practice more fun. He’s sarcastic in nature, and did not change one bit.”

For three years, Snider has called Padgett by his initials, “DP.” While some things have changed now that Padgett is in the head-coaching role, that hasn’t.

“It does change, but still, you know, I’m still calling him DP and feeling much more comfortable with him being the head coach,” Snider said. “He makes things so much easier and much more relaxed.”

Pitino’s practices, especially in the preseason, were 2 hour and 30 minute pressure cookers. Snider said Padgett has backed off a bit on the time, and on some of the grueling conditioning. Snider described having “fresher legs” than at this point a year ago.

As for the basketball style itself, not much has changed.

“It’s a new head coach, but it’s a really similar system,” Mahmoud said. “We didn’t have to do a lot of transition basketball-wise. Q mentioned that practice is a lot more fun, a lot more relaxed. It’s competitive but it’s fun, and that’s a good sign. Everybody competes, even the coaches themselves. It’s a great atmosphere.”

Padgett inherits a team not only with experience in the ACC, but with some experience in playing through scandal. They had to endure the season before last, in which a sex scandal enveloped the program, and in which the school self-imposed a postseason ban. Going through that, both players said, has helped them this time around.

“I’ve been through this twice throughout my four years,” Snider said. “The only thing that keeps me going is just my teammates and the game I love. That’s how we keep going with stuff.”

Mahmoud said, “The biggest thing was we know what we have to do this time around. We knew as soon as practice starts and games start everything will get moving, and at the end of the day, that’s what we came to Louisville to do. We came to play basketball. As soon as practice began we stopped being distracted by what is happening in the media and what is out of our control.”

Mahmoud is from Cairo, which has a completely different system for sports from the NCAA’s amateur model that links sports to educational institutions. That means translating some of the troubles U of L is experiencing a bit difficult for his family and friends back home.

“I tried to explain it to my parents, and my friends,” he said. “It’s just, the concept itself of all the NCAA rules -- and how much you can violate them, and even violate them without even knowing, that is the one thing that people don’t understand overseas. The number of NCAA rules, and we try our best to know all of them, but the concept of that many rules is something they don’t understand very well.”

Regardless, both say they are optimistic for this season, and feel as if they can advance as far as their effort will allow.

“It’s a transition for everybody,” Mahmoud said. “But we just have to stay the course.”

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