CRAWFORD | In brief stint as Louisville coach, Padgett ran the race with class
David Padgett was expected to announce on Wednesday that he and the University of Louisville are parting ways after his stint as interim head coach of the troubled basketball program.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – After his University of Louisville basketball team’s season ended with Tuesday night’s loss to Mississippi State in the KFC Yum! Center, interim head coach David Padgett said he hadn’t had time to think about his future.
After a meeting with interim athletic director Vince Tyra on Wednesday, he said he’ll immediately start thinking about it.
Padgett confirmed to multiple media outlets that he and U of L will be parting ways, and that he’ll begin to pursue other coaching opportunities.
The move, expected on both sides, ends a tumultuous six-month period in which Padgett stabilized the program and kept it on an even keel after a federal investigation implicated the school in a national college basketball corruption scandal. The scandal cost Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino his job, and thrust Padgett into a difficult position that he has handled with class, poise and good humor.
Padgett hadn’t had the luxury of looking back on that time after Tuesday night’s 23-point loss. But it should be noted, that period started at a dead sprint and only got faster as the calendar pages turned.
“It takes a while to decompress after a season, even as an assistant coach, you know it’s going to take some time,” Padgett said after the loss Tuesday night. “I don’t know what time it is now. I know it’s late,” he said, deciding on his next move, before declaring it.
“Just go home and sit on the couch and think about what the hell I just went through for the last six months.”
The line drew a big laugh.
“You only have one first team,” Padgett said.
At an afternoon news conference at the University of Louisville, Padgett announced that he and the university will be parting ways, and that he’ll begin to pursue other coaching opportunities.
He should have no shortage of them.
“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season," Tyra said in a statement. "He took over during incredible circumstances, and has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching."
Here are the bullet points on Padgett’s first team: It finished with 22 wins and 14 losses, ranked 37th in the Ken Pomeroy power rankings. Only one coach in Louisville history has won more games in his first season – Denny Crum, who won 26 in 1970-71. He took over for a Hall of Famer, Rick Pitino, when he was fired in unprecedented circumstances, in the wake of his program’s involvement in an investigation into college basketball corruption.
He took over as acting head coach the day that college basketball teams were allowed to start practicing. There were no assistants. He had no one to help him run practices. For a while, it was just Padgett and a whistle and a group of players that had taken it upon themselves to go to university administration and tell them they wanted him to be coach.
As he pieced together a staff and kept the team going, frequently sitting down with players in the locker room to let them talk about their frustrations, he kept things moving forward. Less than a month after being named head coach, he landed in Charlotte for ACC media day and found himself in a room with Jim Boeheim, Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski and other coaching big names, he handled himself humbly and with class.
And he never stopped. After the final game of the season, a loss to Mississippi State in the National Invitation Tournament, players were just as glowing in their remarks about him as they had been before the season.
“I don’t think anyone else could’ve done in this situation what Coach Padgett did,” freshman Jordan Nwora said. “He did everything anyone could have asked of him in a really difficult situation.”
From junior Ray Spalding: “Nothing but love and respect for David Padgett. He’s been like a father figure to me, more of a role model. I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to come into this situation.”
In the media, we wrote about the difficult situation Padgett inherited. But without actually being in that spot, it’s tough to do that difficulty justice.
“Unless you were in this locker room, you can’t imagine what it’s been like,” Nwora said. “I have all the respect in the world for the way he has handled everything.”
Padgett, as of Tuesday night, said he hadn’t spoken to anyone about his future.
“I haven’t spoken a word to anybody about (my future),” Padgett said Tuesday. “I haven’t thought about it. Because that wouldn’t have been fair to these guys (his players) and what we were trying to accomplish. I guess tomorrow I’ll have to start giving some thought to that.”
After a meeting with interim athletic director Vince Tyra on Wednesday, Padgett will now have that opportunity.
At the end of Tuesday night’s game, the crowd in the KFC Yum! Center began to chant his name.
“That was nice,” he said. “It was nice that fans did that, and believe me it is appreciated. But from the start, this has not been about me, it’s been about these players.”
From start to finish of his first job, Padgett never wavered.
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