Learning curve continues against Seton Hall for David Padgett

Coach David Padgett gets in the ear of Deng Adel (in top photo) during crunch time against Seton Hall. Anas Mahmoud, Malik Williams, V. J. King and Dwayne Sutton (above) reflect the second low in a row (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

This was never going to be easy, thrusting a 32-year-old into the head coach’s role for University of Louisville basketball. No expectations, no aspirations, hurry up, just fill the post vacated by a Hall of Fame coach.

Deng Adel under for a reverse layup for two of his team-leading 20 points (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

David Padgett had only a couple of days to think about it, never vacillating, taking the job, a shortcut to the big time. The players needed someone, wanted him. A shaky time for the team and the fan base. Much to learn, much to teach, not a lot of time.

Could wind up being the school of hard knocks for everyone concerned, as was evident in UofL’s 79-77 loss to Seton Hall before 19,244 at the KFC Yum! Center. Three starters committing four turnovers apiece, most coming at the worst possible times, and with the trio of guards managing only five assists. 

A return to the days of not so long ago when Louisville struggled to have a presence in the middle. Anas Mahmoud, still a seven-foot lightweight after adding 20 pounds in four years, collecting two fouls before breaking a sweat Unable to collect a rebound, make an assist or score a point in 20 minutes.

Dwayne Sutton collecting nine points and three rebounds in 20 minutes of playing time (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Ray Spalding, still struggling with his awkwardness, not much of a factor in the paint or on the boards, managing two points and four rebounds, respectively. Needs to bring all that progress he was said to be making in practice on game days.

Deng Adel, looking good in the scoring column, with 20 points while making seven of 12 field goal attempts and six of six free throws. But having a hard time finding open teammates, especially with the game on the line. Possibly not trusting himself or his teammates at times, making questionable decisions, resulting in blown opportunities.

Quentin Snider, playing better at home than he did at Purdue, having one of his better games of the season. Only to have it go sour for him and be remembered for that errant jump shot in the closing seconds. 

Snider would collect a scant two assists and UofL would be credited with only eight of them for the game, indicating there may be too much one-on-one action and too little passing.  Not much looking for teammates or players not moving without the ball. 

V. J. King still not able to stop anybody on the defensive end or find people around under the basket but contributing 14 points.

Newcomers Jordan Nwora and Dwayne Sutton scoring 10 and 8 points, respectively, but with only one assist between them. 

Padgett, meanwhile, giving his players the benefit of any doubts, suggesting they will get better. Not getting in any faces, not embarrassing anyone during timeouts, rarely raising his voice, being respectful with officials, always the gentleman for now.

He’s new, taking a different tact, relating to a new generation of players in a different way than his predecessors. Going to be interesting to see if his well-mannered approach is successful.  Could be he may have to resort to some more less subtle ways of communicating if things don’t start clicking soon.

Padgett will eventually be successful. But there may be some steep learning curves. Definitely no shortcuts.

Agonizing start but Louisville gives David Padgett his first win

David Padgett patrols the sideline during Louisville 72-61 win over George Mason. His first career win at UofL (Cindy Rice Shelton photos).

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.

The future has arrived for David Padgett, with no guarantees but one game at a time.

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.

Padgett returns confidence, optimism to Louisville basketball

David Padgett is going to quickly win over University of Louisville basketball fans. A breath of fresh air, observed one of them following the press conference, apparently having had his fill of hyperbole from another era.

David Padgett didn’t expect to be where he is but he’s going to make the most of the opportunity.

Padgett would, in fact, provide solid reason for optimism during a week of mostly despair for University of Louisville basketball fans. Hope for everyone who treasures this university and regrets the way UofL is being perceived by outsiders these days.

That being former UofL player David Padgett who was announced as the team’s interim basketball coach late Friday afternoon.While admitting he hadn’t slept in 72 hours, Padgett brought with him a sense of calm and purpose, giving Cardinals’ fans reason for hope, stilling the troubled waters for at least a few minutes.

“This is a very special team. I’ve never seen a group of kids come together like these kids the last three days,” he said. “They’re excited about getting back to playing basketball. Probably the most unique group I’ve ever been around. I honestly don’t know if any other group of players could have gone through what they have this week.”

Padgett knows the community is going to embraces this team, too, having experienced the passion 14 years ago when he transferred to UofL after a coaching change at Kansas.

“This city has embraced me. This university embraced me when I was a student-athlete here. It’s embraced me since I came back as an employee. I met my wife here, her whole family lives here, one of my children was born here. So, this is definitely my home and I care deeply about this city and this university.”

“I told the team that if you put forth the effort I know you’re capable of and you handle yourselves in a professional, this city will rally around you in a way you’ve never seen before. I firmly believe that because I’ve seen it as a player, I’ve seen it as a coach and I’ve seen it in other sports.

“That’s exactly what this team needs. They are 18 and 19-year-old kids and it’s a tough time for them right now. They need that support and they need that love from this city, and they will get it.”

The best thing for them is that practice will begin on Sunday, enabling the players to focus on actual basketball instead of the darkness that engulfed the University following the suspensions of Coach Rick Pitino and Vice President of Athletics Tom Jurich.

“It’s been a dark week at UofL; there’s no other thing to say about that. It’s been very trying for a lot of people, for the university, this city, this program, the athletic department,” he said. “But, we’re getting through it … we’re going back to work and we look forward to moving forward and getting on with basketball season and continuing to having great success in the athletic department.”

Padgett totally committed the next six or seven months, not knowing what lies beyond that. “We’re going to try to go out and win as many games as possible and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

Here’s to David Padgett, interim basketball coach, University of Louisville.

UofL-bound Bonnafon the real deal

Reggie Bonnofon

Setting aside time to watch highly touted recruits perform in high school games is often a waste because they rarely live up to the hype. Not so with Reggie Bonnafon.

The Trinity senior, who was starting at quarterback in his first official game Friday against a powerful Ensworth team from Nashville. would quickly confirm that Charlie Strong made a brilliant decision when he offered Bonnafon a football scholarship at the University of Louisville.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior would complete 16 of 24 passes for 216 yards, including an awesome 59-yard connection for a touchdown, with most of that yardage coming through the air. When his receivers were covered, Bonnafon will take off running, racking up 44 yards on the ground.

Those numbers will only continue to get better as Bonnafon gains experience. He’s strong and quick plays with poise, and appears to have all the right instincts.

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Coach Strong begins his weekly radio show at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill & Margarita Bar at the Big Four Bridge. Good luck if you want to see the broadcasts in person. Some acquaintances report that they were informed in calls to the restaurant that reservations are already booked up for the duration of the season.

Reminiscent of the football kickoff luncheon which was sold out before the flyers arrived in mailboxes.

*   *   *

Congratulations are in order for David and Meghan Padgett who recently welcomed their first child into the world, a son named Nolan, weighing 8 pounds, 13 ounces and standing 24 inches tall. Obviously, on his way to becoming a basketball center at UofL. His dad is an assistant coach at IUPUI in Indianapolis.

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Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 4.10.38 PMThe annual schedule poster has been one of the missing elements leading up to the 2013 football season. If one went to press this year, watch for it to coming out this week.

The guess is the poster will feature the helmet graphic on the press guides and the giant mural on the wall outside the stadium. Head for Rally’s, Thornton’s or O’Reilly Auto Parts if they are forthcoming.

Homecoming for two former U of L players

Difficult to get excited about playing a school with the initials IUPUI, a team always having to go the extra mile to earn any respect.

We have a feeling the program will penciled in on future pre-conference games, with two former University of Louisville basketball players Todd Howard and David Padgett, serving as head coach and assistant coach, respectively. They brought with them lots of memories from two different eras, mostly good, but one oldtimers around in 1975 are still trying to forget.

Padgett knew the opponent well enough that IUPUI was able to stay within five points at the intermission, despite having three seniors benched for most of the first half. That, plus some good three point shooting, keeping things respectable for the first 25 minutes.

Other observations:

  • Gorgui Dieng is getting the hang of backing in on his defender, practically conducting an offensive clinic. Eight of eight field goal attempts, 12 rebounds equally divided on the offensive and defensive sides. Playing with confidence, no funny looking shots this night. Early season games are about development, and he’s taking advantage. Dieng knows he still has much to learn, and he’s committed.
  • Russ Smith is mostly about shooting, but he’s may be the quickest guard Louisville has had in a couple of decades. He brings enthusiasm every time he steps on the floor. He’s becoming a better defender every time out, and he should with an assistant coach like Andre McGee around to counsel him.
  • Rakeem Buckles is obviously going to need a little while to get back to the speedy, bouncy, speedy, mix-it-up stimulant we saw during his freshman season. Needs to happen before Big East play begins.
  • Speaking of recovering, Peyton Siva needs to find his shooting eye again, falling short on the long range shots and even those impossible layups in this game. He doesn’t seem to be able shift gears like he did before his injuries.
  • Angel Nunez sitting patiently on the bench until he gets the call, making three of smoothest looks we’ve seen this season. Nice to have the luxury of that kind of talent in the wings.
  • Chris Smith quietly leading all scorers with 19 points, recovering from a sub-par performance against Vanderbilt.
  • Kyle Kuric is at his best when he’s up against great competition, not getting excited about IUPUI, but still making five of eight shots, a master at finishing the fast break.

The team is still undefeated after eight games, with one more lightweight to come. One should enjoy the carefree atmosphere while one can.