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.

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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.

David Padgett on the move

Old news but still a big loss for Louisville and the U of L basketball program.

David Padgett

David Padgett, who played for Rick Pitino from 2005 to 2008, accepted an assistant coaching position at IUPUI in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago.

Although he was a 6-foot-10 center, Padgett essentially ran the offense. He was the brain trust, the coach on the floor. He brought qualities that were unique, difficult to develop, qualities a player either has or doesn’t have, a born leader, a rare commodity.

The past season Padgett was assistant strength coach. Just having him around the program was an asset. Hopefully he returns some day.

Louisville basketball plot thickens, right on schedule

The off season for University of Louisville basketball is often as intriguing as the regular season, and it appears that we’re already off and running again.

  • Steve Masiello leaving to take over the Manhattan College reins. No surprise here, with Masiello rapidly approaching middle age. Almost overdue.
  • Richard Pitino returning to Louisville as an assistant coach again, accompanied by Billy Donovan-fueled mutterings of a “coach in waiting.”  In the process, Donovan perhaps eliminating himself as the person who would welcome the pressures connected with college basketball’s most profitable program.
  • Tim Fuller, the mysterious assistant coach with the Nike shoe  strings, leaving Louisville for a similar position with Missouri of all programs, taking with him his relationships with some highly-touted recruits. Never had the feeling he was doing much coaching, just sitting on sidelines with that quiet but knowing “I have connections” look.
  • In the best of all worlds, David Padgett, the U of L grad with the All-American appeal, would get the job being vacated by Fuller. Padgett, the son of a coach, has the intelligence, the desire and the pedigree for the position, just a matter of when he gets started in the profession. At one point, that would have been enough but the way the recruiting world operates these days, who knows?
  • Speaking of recruiting, Pitino’s roster is getting a little crowded. If Kevin Ware, who originally committed, to Tennessee, decides on U of L, this will force some changes, speculation we ‘ll save for later.
  • Meanwhile, Pitino will be off this summer to coach the Puerto Rico national team, preparing for the 2012 Olympics. Still another diversion.

No such thing as a comfort zone for U of L basketball.