“I’ll just go home sit on the couch and probably have a glass of red wine and think about what the hell I went through for the past 6 months.” – David Padgett. March 20, 2018.
Six months ago the discussion wasn’t about basketball. Practice was about begin in 9 days, Louisville Football had just hosted College Game Day. Rick Pitino was the celebrity picker. Fans were thinking about what exactly went wrong vs. Clemson and how to salvage the football season.
Then the FBI. The Southern District of New York. University 6. Coach 1. Coach 2. James Gatto. Adidas. Brian Bowen. Christian Dawkins. Las Vegas Hotel Rooms. Wiretaps. Videos. Financial Records. Indefinite Suspensions……..
And there he was. David Padgett the only coach left on a staff that was about to embark on its college basketball season. The players asked for him and 3 days after the FBI rocked college basketball & the University of Louisville David Padgett stood in front of a microphone and gave straightforward, honest and forthright responses during the most tense 72 hours in Louisville Athletics history. He was in that moment a steadying force for a program that was in complete disarray.
How could there be a plan 3 days later? There wasn’t. He didn’t have a staff but practice started anyway. And perhaps David Padgett was always the best choice in a tumultous situation. David Padgett signed with Kansas out of Reno High School as Nevada’s Player of the year and the plan was to be a Jayhawk and play for Roy Williams. BUT….. before Padgett could arrive on campus Roy Williams departed for North Carolina and David found himself instead playing for Bill Self. But even though it wasn’t a part of the plan, David still managed to average 6.5 & 4.5 as a freshman and hit a game winner over arch-rival Missouri. And even though he was supposed to be the 3rd assistant on the bench for Rick Pitino when David found himself & RJ Evans alone running practice. So he beat on.
It took two weeks before Trent Johnson joined David on staff. 8 days after that before Greg Paulus was hired. 11 days later Louisville held its first exhibition. Whirlwind.
The results of the season aren’t what anyone wanted. Falling short of the NCAA Tournament is understandably disappointing for everyone, BUT, let’s not act like there weren’t accomplishments. Mississippi State was the ONLY team to beat Louisville that wasn’t in the NCAA Tournament. 22-14. Came back from 17 on the road to beat Florida State, wins over Indiana & Memphis, beat Notre Dame IN SOUTH BEND (IN OT!), won an ACC Tournament game!
We can focus on the shortcomings and the losses and wonder “What IF?” What if the final 4 minutes vs. Purdue goes differently? What if Desi Rodridguez of Seton Hall is forced to go right? What if the Cards pull it out in Overtime vs. Miami AND/OR Clemson? What if UofL doesn’t let the Florida State & Syracuse games get away at home? What if there were 0.9 seconds less? What if their souls were recovered in time to travel to Raleigh for the regular season finale? David Padgett shares your frustration, “We didn’t accomplish quite what we hoped for.”
But what about no off the court issues for Louisville Basketball this year? What about no player drama? What about no coach drama? What about a head coach with no notice being thrust into a role days before practice without any assistants at one of the most high pressure jobs in college basketball NOT GETTING A SINGLE TECHNICAL ALL YEAR? Padgett wants you to remember the players: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it til the day I die the way these players conducted themselves this year not only on the court but OFF the court has been nothing short of remarkable……They need to be proud of themselves as people for the way they handled themselves.”
Personally I’m proud to have had David Padgett represent OUR school during this year. He’s learned lessons and he’s better for it. As a fanbase we’ve learned lessons and we are better for it as well. The program & its fans have been through a great deal and the NIT showings demonstrate the the spirit of UofL still is alive and well. I can’t think of anyone better to have represented the University of Louisville better than David Padgett through this difficult period but even still David passes the praise elsewhere, “The fans are the reason why putting this uniform on are so special……The fans make it what it is and we owe an extreme debt of gratitude to the fans for supporting these guys through a difficult season……The fanbase is the best in the country, it is a special special place.”
Louisville is a special special place. But David Padgett is a special special person. And so at the conclusion of the 2017-18 Basketball Season for the University of Louisville I personally would like to just say very simply “Thank You” to David Padgett.
What does the future hold for UofL & David Padgett? We’ll find out in the coming days. But for now Coach Padgett I hope you are sitting on your couch with robust bottle (or two or three) of red and I hope you are proud. Because I am.