BOZICH | For Padgetts, Louisville basketball a family affair this season
Pete and Debbie Padgett plan to give up a winter in San Diego to support their son, David, and his family as the Louisville basketball coach this season.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It was 6 a.m. in San Diego when Pete Padgett received the unexpected text message from his son, David.
Sept. 26, 2017.
“And he goes, ‘Are you up?’ “ Pete Padgett said. “I’m back in. He goes, ‘Call me immediately!’ Six o’clock in the morning text messages of ‘Call me immediately!’ are not good when you have kids.”
An FBI investigation was burning its way around college basketball and the Louisville program with stunning allegations another U of L coach facilitated a $100,000 payment to a recruit.
Pete Padgett called up a story on the internet that outlined the allegations about assistant coaches at four other schools. His son asked him to keep reading the story. There were issues at the University of Louisville, too.
On the road recruiting, Padgett was unsure of his next move. But he knew who to ask – his parents, Pete and Debbie.
“I go, ‘What’s going on?’" Pete Padgett said. “He goes, ‘I have no idea.’ I said, ‘Where are you?’ He goes, ‘I’m in Orlando, Florida, sitting in the airport.
“It was like it stopped, our conversation did. There was silence. I go, ‘What’s next?’ He said, ‘I have no idea.’"
“It was like a big tornado with things just happening so fast,” Debbie Padgett said. “We didn’t know what was going to happen with David, and we were worried about him.”
How fast did things move? A day later Pitino was suspended. (He was later fired.) The next day, the Louisville players told administrators they wanted Padgett as their coach even though he had no coaching experience.
“And I said, ‘What do you want us to do?’" Pete Padgett said. “He said, ‘Would you guys mind coming back (to Louisville)?’ And I said, ‘No, we’ll be there in a second.’"
They took the first flight from San Diego to Indianapolis. They were in the air when David was introduced as Louisville’s acting head coach. After landing in Indianapolis past midnight, they slept for a few hours then quickly drove to Louisville. They were greeted by their son, his wife, Megan and their two young sons, Nolan and Gavin.
“We pulled up into the driveway,” Pete Padgett said. “Nolan came running out. Gavin came running out. We hugged them.
“(David) said, ‘All right, let’s go.’ Whew.
“So I got in the car with him and said ‘Where are we going?’ He goes, ‘We’ve got a two-hour practice that we haven’t used yet. We haven’t used our two hours this week.”
The Padgetts are a basketball family. David’s grandfather, Jim, was a college head coach at California, where he battled John Wooden and UCLA and Nevada.
Pete Padgett turned down a scholarship from Bob Knight at Indiana that would have made him member of the Hoosiers’ 1976 NCAA championship team. He averaged 17 rebounds as a freshman at Nevada. His career rebounding total still ranks sixth all-time among guys who played after freshman eligibility started in 1973. Padgett was drafted by the NBA and became a successful high school coach, coaching David in Reno, Nevada.
David was a McDonald’s All-American, rated the fifth-best prospect in a high school class that included LeBron James and Chris Paul. Padgett unexpectedly lost his college coach, too. Roy Williams recruited him to Kansas and then Williams left for North Carolina in 2003. Debbie Padgett read the news on a message board.
“I go, ‘Did you hear the news?’" she said. “He goes, ‘No.’
“Roy took the job at Carolina. His face just dropped, I’m sure no different than the kids here at Louisville, where the coach that you are going to go play for is leaving.”
David played one season at Kansas before transferring to Louisville. He became a captain, three-year starter and Rick Pitino’s most dependable player, a determined 6-foot-11-inch center who could operate near the goal or at the top of the lane. David Padgett overcame a seven-hour operation in New York City to fix his knees to play those final two seasons at Louisville.
After playing two seasons professionally in the Canary Islands, he returned to work for Pitino one year and then assisted Todd Howard at IUPUI in Indianapolis for three seasons. He’s worked for Pitino the last three seasons. Of the four coaches on the Louisville staff seven weeks ago, only Padgett remains. His name has not been touched by the scandal.
“At least we felt like we raised our kids in a certain way, that you don’t get involved in certain things,” Pete Padgett said. “That’s not who we are.”
They were confident their son was not involved in any NCAA rules violations.
“I’d stake my life on it,” Pete Padgett said.
After the initial flurry of activity, Pete and Debbie returned to San Diego for their car; the family German Shepherd (Tanya) and more belongings. They took five days to drive across the country before arriving in Louisville several weeks ago.
David’s sister, Melissa, flew from North Carolina on Sunday for the Cardinals’ season-opening 72-61 win over George Mason. They watched, worried and ultimately celebrated from several rows behind the Louisville bench.
They will be in Louisville all season, supporting their son and the team, making Louisville basketball a family affair.
What would be a happy ending to this story?
“I want those players to succeed and have the best season possible,” Debbie Padgett said. “Sure, you’d like them to go all the way to the championship game, but just the best season possible and enjoy the ride.
“Give it your all. Play as hard as you can and good things will happen.”
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