CRAWFORD | Padgett and Williams continue their long, strange trip when Louisville faces UNC
Louisville interim coach David Padgett has a long history with North Carolina coach Roy Williams. It will get another chapter when Louisville faces UNC Saturday night.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In a roundabout way, if not for Roy Williams, David Padgett wouldn’t be on the University of Louisville sidelines Saturday night at 8, when his Cardinals take on North Carolina.
Williams recruited Padgett out of high school, and signed him at the University of Kansas. But before Padgett arrived in Lawrence, Williams took the North Carolina job.
That was not a popular decision in the Padgett home. In an interview before this season with WDRB News, Pete Padgett said that David was upset by Williams’ decision. David’s mother, Debbie, saw the news on a message board and left work. She was the one who broke the news to her son.
That night, when Williams called the Padgett home to talk about what had happened, neither David nor Debbie was ready to have a conversation. Pete Padgett talked to the coach, and in the time since those difficult days, Williams and the Padgetts have been friends.
You never know the ripples of one man’s decision.
David spent one season at Kansas, then transferred to play for Rick Pitino at Louisville, where he was a captain, and prepared for what he knew would be a career in coaching under the man who launched more successful coaching careers than any coach of his generation. The school Padgett spurned to choose Kansas was North Carolina, where Williams wound up. But Padgett didn’t choose to go there when he left Kansas.
Padgett’s final college game, you probably won’t be surprised to know, came against Roy Williams and the Tar Heels, a loss in the Elite Eight in Greensboro, N.C., in 2008.
Given all that, maybe it was no surprise that one of the first people to call Padgett after he accepted the Louisville job was this man who one way or another, helped to shape his destiny.
“There’s no doubt, in a weird way, if he doesn’t leave Kansas, I’m not standing here right now,” Padgett said Friday. “It’s probably a given. It’s just crazy how things work out. But you know, he was one of the first people to call me back in the fall, when all this happened, just to be supportive and all that and gave me some good advice on a couple of things. We’ve kept a great relationship, we really have. And he always asks how my family is doing, first and foremost. But it was strange being, first a player in the Elite Eight playing against him. And being an assistant and now a head coach. It’s kind of funny how full circle everything comes. But he’s obviously one of the best coaches in the game, that there ever has been. We’ve had a great relationship, and I’m sure he’d say the same thing, but that doesn’t mean tomorrow night we don’t want to beat each other, because he’s very competitive, and I am. But he’s been a good friend.”
Williams said Friday he’s been impressed with Padgett’s handling of the difficult situation at Louisville. He noted that the Cardinals are shooting better in ACC play than they did in the non-conference season, which is a sign that the team has improved as the season has gone along.
“He’s a good kid,” Williams said. “I shouldn’t say kid. Of course, I’m about old enough to call anybody kid. He’s from a basketball family. His dad was a coach. So I think he’s in a tough situation. He really liked Coach Pitino and had a great relationship with him, and then all of a sudden you’re the head coach. But he’s got some good guys around him. His staff is a good bunch.”
From a style standpoint, Williams says he doesn’t see major differences. The Cardinals are playing at the fastest tempo of any U of L team since 2013. Their defensive efficiency is the program’s lowest since 2010, but the defensive performances have improved in recent games, and the overall defensive efficiency still ranks in the Top 25 nationally.
“It’s what you would expect of a guy who was with Rick for a long time and played for Rick,” Williams said. “He does believe in full-court pressure, which is how he played. People don’t realize he could really run. I recruited him and signed him. . . . But they’re long and athletic. They had a good team coming back and he knew that. He’s tried to coach them and give them in the direction without getting in the way. They’re impressive when they get it going. They really are.”
North Carolina comes into the game a half-game ahead of Louisville, but the teams are tied in the loss column. If North Carolina can win Saturday, it will take a step closer to a first-round bye for the ACC.
For Louisville, the game begins a brutal five-game stretch to finish the season, but Padgett says he doesn’t want his team thinking about that.
“It’s five very difficult games, there’s no beating around the bush on that, but it’s five opportunities to give us a chance to get some really good wins,” Padgett said. “. . . But we’re not the only team that’s got a difficult remaining schedule. You know some guys in the office were talking about some of the other teams’ schedules the other day. I think Clemson has a pretty tough one, and North Carolina has a pretty tough finishing stretch. It’s the end of February. Every game at this point of the year is tough. . . . Our goal is just to go 1-0. And once this game is over, our next goal will be to go 1-0.”
But let’s not make any mistake. To go 1-0 with Roy Williams on the other sideline would be special for Padgett.
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