Mahmoud, Spalding live big, Louisville routs Siena

The light switch may have finally been flipped for Anas Mahmoud in an 86-60 win for the University of Louisville over Siena College before a crowd of 17,215 at the KFC Yum! Center. 

Whether the switch remains in the on position depends on whether he continues to be an active participant  or is only passively involved. One can hope that he stays as engaged as he was during the second half. Apparently something he heard at halftime got him going.

Ray Spalding and Jordan Nwora battle for a rebound,with Spalding prevailing this night (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The 7-foot senior center went from a decent first half to a dominant second half, stuffing the stat sheet — dunking on Siena over and over in final 20 minutes — on his way to a near triple double, with 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocked shots.

Mahmoud has shown brief glimpses of potential during the past three seasons but nothing resembling his latest showing, energy that was lacking from him in the team’s two losses. Not like overwhelming Siena is anything to write home about, but at least it’s a start. 

“Ray (Spalding) and I need to make things happen under the basket to take some of the pressure off the guards,” he said after the game. Indeed.  He also could added something about the intensity level he brought to the game in that second half.

Spalding, meanwhile, was scoring 10 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, blocking four shots, and making four steals. Spalding and Mahmoud had managed only two points and nine rebounds in Sunday’s two-point loss to Seton Hall.

So Mahmoud and Spalding came out of their shells, at least temporarily, confirming that they may have the ability to live up to their potential. Nothing to get overly excited about, not until they live up to the talk, the promise, and prove they can do it and do it consistently again better competition.

An indication of whether the switch has really flipped for these guys will come soon enough, with UofL entertaining Indiana at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

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.

Jurich decision not to fire Pitino costly for Louisville athletics

Interim President Greg Postel (at podium) and Board Chairman J. David Grissom (at left) at press conference on suspensions. (Charlie Springer photo).

The last place any University of Louisville supporter wanted to be on Wednesday was at a press conference on campus announcing the suspensions of Tom Jurich and Rick Pitino. The unbelievable, never-ending nightmare had finally come to this.

Tom Jurich says he’s willing to stay on at the University of Louisville.

There was Interim President Greg Postel at the podium confirming the worst possible news for UofL athletics, that Jurich was no longer in charge, that he was on paid suspension until the next board meeting on Oct. 18th. That Pitino was also suspended but without pay until the same date.

With those announcements, UofL athletics probably ended one era and entered another.  The new era getting off to a shaky start with the program’s clouded by an appeal for mercy to the NCAA and the beginning of an even more serious investigation involving both the NCAA and the Justice Department.

Jurich has faced dozens of serious challenges during his tenure at UofL, but none as big as ones confronting the University now.

Jurich, who had reportedly refused to fire Pitino over the past several weeks, met with Postel earlier in the morning. Whether he was given another opportunity to fire his friend may never be known but the meeting lasted only seven minutes.

Members of the Board of Trustees may have believed having the University involved in a Justice Department investigation was far too serious to ignore. Or they concluded that a second set of NCAA allegations required a clean sweep of both the athletic administration and the basketball program.

At any rate, still another solemn, dark day in University of Louisville history with no one, including we suspect the members of the board of trustees, having a clue about what happens next. Difficult to fault the leadership for acting so decisively, with the FBI reportedly already on campus interviewing members of the basketball staff, as Postel acknowledged during the press conference.

The saddest part of all of this is that most fans may never have a chance to thank Tom Jurich for all he accomplished at the University of Louisville. Over two decades, he was able to transform bits and pieces of hopes and dreams into some incredible realities in the form of physical facilities, incredible successes on the field, and making Louisville competitive in every single sport.

Dreams that many fans didn’t dare verbalize before his arrival in 1997 became commonplace occurrences during his tenure, raising through three different conferences, one new or renovated facility after the other, with successes in both men’s and women’s sports, and in programs led by some of the best coaches available.

Jurich held out some hope that he would return, issuing the following statement Wednesday afternoon:

“For the last 20 years, I have dedicated my life to the University of Louisville. Disappointment does not even come close to describing my feelings surrounding the allegation that any member of the UofL basketball staff could be involved in the criminal conduct announced yesterday. My intent has always been to run every athletic program at the University in an honest and compliant manner. It is heartbreaking to me that the alleged intentional and secret criminal acts can bring such harm to our school.

“I love this University, the Louisville community and all of our fans. I plan to continue to help UofL overcome the challenges it faces and work cooperatively with the University with the support of the UofL Board of Trustees following their meeting on October 19th.”

It is a well-worded statement, with all kinds of nuances, possibly for legal reasons to protect his financial interest. Some clinging to hope that he is sincere about wanting to stick around, imaging how many more things he could accomplish for the University.

Whether he could turn the board is a very long shot, of course, considering that he never seemed to seriously entertain any notions of firing Pitino. He has faced dozens of serious challenges during his tenure at UofL, but none as big as ones confronting the University now. The possibility that he might be willing to tackle them would say much about Tom Jurich’s character and his love for UofL.