Rookie David Padgett gets Louisville a win in South Bend

Long time ago, way back, an eternity.

Nobody ever taking anything for granted in South Bend. Not with the University of Louisville basketball team not having a won a game against Notre Dame since 1994. Twenty-five years between UofL’s 85-83 overtime win that year and the Cardinals’ 82-78 win in double overtime on Tuesday.

If David Padgett is still around a couple of decades from now, fans will be referencing the game in January of 2018 when he ended the losing streak. A 32-year-old interim head coach, no head coaching experience, the youngest mentor in the NCAA’s toughest division.

Padgett doing something his mentor wasn’t able to do in six chances at South Bend. Another major booster shot for him and, indeed, for a team that keeps getting better, improving its record to 14-4 overall and 4-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Finding a way to win while being outrebounded 48-34 by Notre Dame and with Matt Ferrell and Martinas Geben scoring 23 points and 22 points, respectively. Achieving a rare feat, with his team making more free throws than the home team at South Bend — UofL sinking 15 of 17 at the free throw line while the Irish were making only 7 of 11.

Convincing his people that they could win, trusting them, them trusting him, listening, executing, refusing to wilt. Something really good happening here, people.

— Quentin Snider needing 21 points to make the 1,000-point club, doing it with a point to spare with his 22 for the night. The last two the game-clinching free throws with six seconds on the clock. Seven assists extraordinary.

— Ray Spalding making those scary hook shots look easy, especially at crunch time, with 23 points, 12 rebounds and two assists.

— Deng Adel giving up the basketball, working it around, letting other people score, winding up with 12 points and a couple of assists.

— Ryan McMahon three from downtown and 9 points.

— Anas Mahmoud with four of those marvelous blocks.

A win in South Bend at long last, Padgett making it happen.

Kenny Payne non-starter for Louisville coaching job

Kenny Payne? No thanks.

Kenny Payne was a contributor on UofL’s national championship team in 1986.

A couple of local sportswriters, taking advantage of the ultra sensitive relations between the two schools, are trumpeting Kentucky’s Kenny Payne to be a candidate for the University of Louisville’s head basketball coach.

One has no reason to doubt that Payne is a sharp individual with an ability to relate to college basketball players. But he will never be seriously considered as a contender for the UofL job for obvious reasons.

Rick Bozich, of WDRB TV, calls several former UofL players about Payne, including Billy Thompson, Pervis Ellison, Rodney and Scooter McCray, Jerry Eaves and Butch Beard. The results are predictable, all of them wanting Payne to have a shot at the job.  What did he expect them to say? Bozich even gets Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, most recently at SMU, to endorse Payne because of his ability to relate to players.

David Padgett’s team has won 11 of its first 14 games but the coaching succession talk has already begun (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Tim Sullivan, a Courier-Journal columnist, tweets that “More than one high-rolling Louisville fan has told me the Cardinals’ next coach should be Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne.” In another tweet he says that a former UofL trustee (Jonathan Blue) says that Payne “checks all the boxes,” to be Louisville’s next coach.

Nice try, guys, generating lots of conversation and controversy, not to mention clicks. However, the last time we checked, David Padgett, with the exception of a bad loss to UK, has been doing a decent job with a 11-3 record in his first season, albeit as interim head coach.  The job is not currently open and may not be unless the season winds up in a total dump heap.

Even more importantly, the last thing UofL basketball needs is to hire another coach from UK. It’s going to take years for UofL to recover from the aftermath of Rick Pitino, a former Kentucky coach, who left under dire circumstances with the program’s reputation badly damaged. Constantly looking to UK for coaches is not a good look for UofL.

Also, with Louisville basketball seeking to earn its way back to respectability, why would the school want to take a chance on an individual tied to a UK program many suspect of questionable recruiting. It is well known that UK has close ties with William Wesley, a powerful influence on college basketball recruiting, and that Wesley and Payne go way back.

Curious that Rick Bozich would contact Larry Brown about Payne when three programs with which Brown has been associated — UCLA, Kansas and SMU — were punished for illegal recruiting practices during his tenure. UK Coach John Calipari, well known for his innovative recruiting practices, has his own bad history, with vacated wins and Final Fours at Massachusetts and Memphis.

With the arrests of some assistant coaches and agents back in September, the FBI warned about”the dark underbelly of college athletics,” and indicated that investigations would be ongoing. If the FBI is to be taken at its word, UofL should steer clear of any individual involved in questionable recruiting practices.

Payne was a good player at Louisville from 1985 through the 1989 seasons, competing on UofL ‘s national championship team in 1986. He had a nice jump shot, players seem to like him, and his teams get recruits (see above). As for leadership and coaching abilities, however, the jury is still out.

All David Padgett needs at this juncture is to have some half serious sportswriters and talk show hosts taking advantage of the rivalry to stir up controversy. He had a lot to learn, obviously, but it is much too premature to be discussing any possible successors.

As with Padgett, Kenny Payne has no previous head coaching experience. Ten games into Payne’s first season, we would be having another conversation about the next candidate from UK to be the UofL coach, with much prompting from writers like Bozich and Sullivan.

Enough with the UK harrassment already.

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.