Big day for David Padgett, appearing in his first official game as the head basketball coach at the University of Louisville. Taking over the team at a low point, charged with keeping the program competitive. No guarantees of a permanent position.
A month-and-a-half ago, he was an assistant coach, hoping someday to get his shot at becoming a head coach somewhere. Never dreaming that he would be the guy to succeed a legend at the University of Louisville. Hoping to pay his dues, learn from the guy next to him on the bench, and hope an opportunity came along that he could not resist.
If there is enormous pressure on his shoulders, Padgett shows no physical signs. Rarely showing the emotion displayed by his predecessor. He was on his feet most of the game, camping out on the opposite side of the coach’s box. Occasionally barking instructions, seemingly relying on hand gestures to communicate with players.
Outwardly, at least, cool, calm, collected and confident.
Padgett’s first game, however, as head coach was a major challenge, with UofL trailing most of the way, owning a lead for less than 14 minutes. Trailing by six points three times early in the second half, hanging around, keeping things close. But they would emerge with a 72-61 win over George Mason before a crowd of 18,304 at the KFC Yum! Center.
Deng Adel would lead all scorers with 20 points, but UofL would need a couple of freshmen to have some outstanding debuts in order to win. Darius Perry and Jordan Nwora would each connect on three-for-three 3-point attempts, scoring 17 and 10 points, respectively.
George Mason was able to contain Anas Mahmoud, applying constant pressure, fouling him often. Mahmoud would miss the first shot on one-plus-one free throw opportunities five different times. He would hit only two of seven free throw attempts and manage only six points for the day.
Not a good game either for V. J. King who would make all five of his five points at the free throw line. Nor for Ray Spalding who would foul out of the game with only two points.
George Mason a good test for Louisville in the opening game, providing a preview of what to expect in the weeks and months ahead. No one expected the first game to be easy, few of them will be. David Padgett has taken his first step, won his first game. Creating the future one game at a time.
The play of the night, indeed the most memorable moment of the pre-season, was Deng Adel slipping beneath the basket, twisting and turning, slamming the basketball through the net on a thundering reverse dunk.
Shades of Darrell Griffith, Adel’s theatrics igniting flashbacks of one of the most memorable seasons in University of Louisville basketball history. Anything is possible during the pre-season. Anything.
Ah, but just another exhibition game, UofL’s 72-57 win over Bellarmine before a crowd of 15,350 at the KFC Yum! Center on Tuesday. Not much to really deduct from the result other than the obvious, the Cardinals were never really able to dominate the cross-town foe.
Adel was the dominant force in UofL’s offense, scoring 21 points, including two 3-pointers, and five free throws. V. J. King with 14 points, Anas Mahmoud 9, and Ray Spalding with 7. The lack of stoppage, however, portending a heavy focus on defense before the opening game against George Mason.
Our favorite photographer, Cindy Rice Shelton, was there, submitting the following for your scrutiny (click on first photo for slideshow):
Tom Jurich may have done his job too well at the University of Louisville, helping to transform a sleepy urban school into a dynamic university campus. Also making it a target for at least one business magnate, giving millions to the school on one hand while questioning the motives of UofL leadership on the other.
Jurich arrived as UofL Athletic Director in 1997, and under this leadership, the program enjoyed an era of growth unrivaled in the University’s history. Creating a plethora of new athletic facilities while claiming championships in three different conferences and thriving on a national stage.
His football hires would lead UofL to major BCS wins, including the Orange and Sugar bowls, and numerous top 20 finishes. UofL would return from obscurity in college basketball to national prominence, including four final fours, and a national championship in 2013. Baseball, soccer and women’s basketball were ranked among the top 10 annually. The swimming program well represented on Olympic teams.
Easily one of the most popular individuals in the Louisville area, Jurich used his popularity and the power that came with it to promote the school. A small group of individuals accused him of using bullying tactics but, if so, it was on rare occasions, most likely to overcome impediments to UofL’s growth.
While all these things were happening, UofL was becoming the most dynamic institution in the community, with prestige and influence at all-time highs. As great as that was for the school, the success was creating some resentment from some in the development community. Some believing they were competing at a disadvantage against a public institution. Including some people on the Board of Trustees.
Some key members of some old money families were also reported to becoming resentful of the school’s growth, as well as some of the nouveau riche, the new upstarts wanting to have their say. Some in elite circles purportedly wanting to get rid of President Jim Ramsey in favor of Matthew Barzun, former U.S. ambassador to Great Britain with family ties to old Louisville money.
Emily Bingham, daughter of former newspaper publisher Barry Bingham, Jr., joining forces in opposition to Ramsey as well. Some suspect they were using their political clout in Frankfort and their influence with the Courier-Journal in successful attempts to skewer Ramsey and to embarrass the school at every opportunity.
The inevitable result was the former Board of Trustees becoming factionalized and dysfunctional. Governor Matt Bevin would appoint a totally new board after Ramsey sought his help. But Ramsey’s efforts may have backfired with Bevin’s selection of new trustees, one of their first acts removing Ramsey from office.
That was probably the beginning of the end for Jurich, who on the day following Ramsey’s ouster celebrated the opening of the $17 million Thornton’s Academic Center on the south end of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Ramsey had trusted Jurich implicitly, giving him total autonomy, and suddenly Ramsey was gone.
Among the new trustees was John Schnatter, whose company’s name had adorned the stadium from the beginning. Over the years, Schnatter had become more demanding, wanting to make personal appearances, driving his souped-up Camaro, engine roaring, into the end zone at half times, passing out pizzas in the stands. He even demanded that his company’s name be gaudily painted in giant letters on the roof of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Schnatter, it was suspected, was not happy that the parent company of a competitor had its name on the KFC Yum! Center where UofL plays basketball. The company that owns Pizza Hut also has its name on the UofL basketball practice center on Belknap Campus.
He also had argued from the beginning against the location of the downtown arena on the riverfront, siding with leading businessman David Jones, Sr., that the best location was the water company site. Having the name of a competitor wind up on the arena in that exact location had to be even more bothersome.
By some reports, Schnatter and Jurich had had as little to do with each other as possible. The fundraising for the latest expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium was so successful that a contribution wasn’t sought from Schnatter for the north end zone addition.
Schnatter, meanwhile, always making a big show of arriving at the stadium in his helicopter, usually late, several minutes after kickoff, circling the stadium before landing near where the old silos stood. He reportedly never received a go-ahead for a closer landing spot to the stadium but he was attracting attention.
Instead of praising Jurich and hailing the athletic department’s success as an example for the rest of the school, Schnatter was an early detractor. It was Schnatter who made the initial accusations that there were major problems in the athletic department. Made them after meeting with Interim President Greg Postel. Saying Postel had told him Jurich was invisible. Schnatter told the board that the athletic department was a major cause of the problems at UofL. “Get the athletic department in line and everything else at the school will fall in line,” he said, or words to that effect.
Some suspect the real problems in the athletic department were a figment of Schnatter’s imagination. That he wanted more recognition and respect for all the dollars he had contributed to athletics and the school. He never indicated what his real beef was with Tom Jurich.
We will never know if Governor Bevin was aware of Schnatter’s concerns when he appointed him to the new board. It may have seemed like a logical choice at the time, with Schnatter having donated almost $25 million to UofL academics and athletics. One has to wonder, however, if the appointment was a major mistake on the Administration’s part, unnecessarily adding to the chaos at the school.
Despite Jurich’s successes, his fate was sealed when the Justice Department suddenly became interested in the world of college basketball recruiting, leading to quick suspensions of him and Coach Rick Pitino. That would give their detractors all the cover they needed to get rid of them.
All of the enormous accomplishments of Jurich over 20 years not counting for much. The board hadn’t been a part of the success, and lacked perspective. It did, unfortunately, include one of the school’s wealthiest contributors not happy with the athletic director.
One has been told that Schnatter is not the wise acre that he comes off as in board meetings, that he’s a smart individual who didn’t luck into becoming a billionaire. He has yet to prove, however, that he has the best interests of the school in mind, with his seemingly wild accusations about a program that had come so far under Jurich.
Earning the respect and gratitude of people passionate about the University of Louisville will not come easily for Schnatter. Many of UofL’s fans and supporters are hurting and angry right now, apprehensive about the future with Tom Jurich no longer around.
Leadership is about preparing for the future, not laying waste to the past.
Trent Johnson is one happy man today, having landed a job as an assistant coach with the University of Louisville basketball program. Happily giving up the routine of a beloved grandfather in retirement to return to the game he loves.
To work with David Padgett, a person he has known and respected for a long time. Johnson’s son Terry played on the same team with Padgett at Reno High School when Johnson was head basketball coach at University of Nevada.
Padgett describing Johnson as a person be will be able to lean on and his players can relate. “I think under the circumstances, I don’t think that we could find a better hire,” he said.
“I accept the responsibility to David, his staff, the players on this team to continue anyway possible to sustain the standard of excellence that Louisville basketball is all about,” said Johnson.
“My agenda is come in and help him morning, noon and night to be the best possible team, the best possible players they can be socially, academically and athletically.
“I’m ready to do anything Coach wants me to do.”
Johnson had been out the game for a year since he was fired at TCU but said he wasn’t ready to be retired. “I’m a lifer,” he said. “Basketball is a big part of my life. I was going to be in somebody’s gym sooner or later.”
He has a lifetime won-lost record of 236-88 after coaching stints at Nevada, Stanford, LSU and TCU. He also served as an assistant at Utah, Washington, Rice and Stanford.
So Johnson has been around, quite a bit, experienced more than a few ups and downs. Happy to be at UofL. “It’s Louisville,” he said, acknowledging the UofL as one of the sport’s elite programs.
We may never know how many people were interviewed by the school to fill the acting athletic director’s role during Tom Jurich’s suspension.
Nor should we care because Vince Tyra appears to have been an amazing hire.
Uniquely qualified in so many ways, for either the short-term or the long haul, ready to totally immerse himself in his new post as Acting Athletic Director at the University of Louisville.
He’s a life-long UofL fan who closely follows the school’s academic and athletic programs, wanting to take them to the highest levels. He hails from a UofL family and the son of the basketball program’s first consensus All-American basketball player.
And he admires and respects Tom Jurich for what he has accomplished at UofL, considering Jurich among the best in the business.
“I’m passionate about UofL athletics, I grew up a Cardinals’ fan, raised my kids as Cardinals’ fans,” he said during a Tuesday press conference at Bigelow Hall on Belknap Campus. “Tom is a good friend. His legacy is all around us. While this has been a difficult period for us, it’s a time for our fan base to dig in even deeper. It’s a time for us to be even more supportive.
“While this is a difficult process of what we’re going through, we have a terrific set of athletic programs all across the board. One of them may have a flat tire right now, but we will prop it back up. I’m looking forward to work with David Padgett.”
Tyra’s 80-year old mother still attends every UofL basketball game and he said she cheers like her late husband Charlie Tyra is still playing for the Cardinals. His father averaged more 20 points and 20 rebounds per game during his junior and senior seasons, leading Louisville to a National Invitation Tournament championship in his junior year.
Vince has blazed his own trail, has been enormously successful in business, serving as Chief Executive Officer for five companies, most recently as operating partner in Southfield Capital and as an advisor to ISCO Industries where he served as president. He was also president of retail and active wear at Fruit of the Loom.
When a new board was appointed for the University of Louisville Foundation last year, Tyra was named chairman of the ULF’s finance committee, establishing new guidelines to control spending and to restore credibility with major university donors.
After leaving a ULF board meeting last week, Tyra walked down to the baseball field where he met with UofL Coach Dan McDonnell. “We stood on the field and just talked. I know he’s a leader among our coaches. We’ve got a great group of coaches, many of them have been here more than 10 years. I’m going to enjoy working with all of them.”
It was obvious during his introductory press conference that Vince Tyra is an individual who has considered himself a part of the University of Louisville family. He was convincing when he said very much appreciates what Tom Jurich has done for the school.
One got the feeling that while he would devote a great deal of energy to the job and probably be enormously successful, Vince Tyra would have no problem stepping aside if Tom Jurich were allowed to return and continue his life’s work. They share a common interest, first and foremost, in seeing UofL thrive and prosper again.