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Padgett settling into interim coaching role at Louisville, may get assistance from Crum

By Russ Brown
Kentucky Today

David Padgett walked into the media room at the Yum! Center and settled his 6-foot-11 frame into a chair for his first press conference after four practice sessions as interim head coach. Then, trying to speak, the Cardinals’ interim head basketball coach coughed and cleared his throat.

“Now I know why coach Pitino wore a microphone at practice,” he said.

If Padgett thinks his voice has taken a beating after just a few days in the position, wait until January. Actually, he should have some help long before then, but right now he’s a one-man show as he puts the 2017-18 Cards through their paces, and that obviously involves a lot of talking that can be hard on a fellow’s throat.

Padgett has no assistant coaches yet, because the other two assistants — Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair — are in limbo while their status is sorted out by interim athletics director Vince Tyra and the compliance staff regarding any role they may have in the FBI’s pay-for-play investigation of college basketball.

University of Louisville interim men’s head basketball coach David Padgett shouts instructions to his team as they participate in drills during practice Wednesday

With former head coach Rick Pitino having been ousted, that leaves three vacancies on the coaching staff and a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of one person, even as broad as those shoulders are.

“It’s tough, I’m not going to lie to you,” Padgett says. “You need four coaches to coach a Division I basketball program, especially at this level, but we’re getting ready to start our fifth practice today and I can make do for the time being. It’s just that I don’t want to have to go into Cameron Indoor in January or February, whenever it is we play, as a coach by myself. I don’t know if I would make it back alive.

“It’s going to be a decision that’s up to a lot of people. It’s certainly not going to be completely up to me because there’s a lot of outside factors. Obviously we need a staff. We know that, there’s no hiding that, but there’s a lot of things that go into this whole thing and we’ve got to let that situation work itself out.”

Padgett might get some help from a well-seasoned expert on college and the Cardinals. Meeting the press after Padgett, Tyra said he plans on contacting Hall of Fame coach Denny Crum about a role in helping with the program.

Crum, 80, has been retired for 16 years after coaching the Cardinals for 30 years and guiding them to two national championships and six Final Fours, but in an interview Monday with Rick Bozich of WDRB, Crum said he would be willing to help in some way.

“I would help (Padgett),” Crum said. “I sure would, if he needed any help that I could give. That’s what I would do. I don’t want to be in charge. I don’t want to go on the road recruiting. I don’t want to have to deal with problems. But I would be happy to help David.”

In his retirement, Crum had continued to work for the university in fund-raising and as a goodwill amabassador before being released from that job this summer. Crum suffered stroke symptoms last month while on a fishing trip in Alaska and had to be airlifted to a hospital in Anchorage and given a clot-buster, but says his health is fine now. He can expect a call from Tyra soon.

“My thought is, one thing I enjoyed as a kid is watching how the program involved my father (Charlie Tyra) and I think it’s great to recognize many of the former athletes and coaches,” Tyra said. “And we’ve had some great ones in basketball, certainly. And David needs that support. I can tell him what my network of people have to say in the community, but I think he needs to hear it first hand and see their support.

“So I’m reaching out to them, and with coach Crum, I’m tipping my hand, but it’s asking him to come back, voice support, be with (Padgett). David can dictate what he needs, what he doesn’t need, but if there’s one thing in the playbook it is I would like to have that involvement. And I’ll be talking to former players too.”

Padgett already has one elder statesman on hand — his father Pete flew in from Reno last weekend, along with his mother, to provide moral support and be an informal adviser to his son. Pete was a highly-successful high school coach in Nevada for 40 years.

“The role my dad’s playing for me is being my dad,” David said. “There was a time last week when all this went down when I didn’t know if I was going to have a job and my parents were concerned about David Padgett the person first and foremost. They just wanted to make sure we were doing okay.
“Look, my dad coached me, he knows the game, he knows me better than anybody besides my wife and mother and right now I just need him to be my dad. He’s someone who likes to keep a low profile and he’s not going to butt his head where it doesn’t belong. I’m just leaning on him for advice from a personal standpoint, trying to stay as even keel throughout this whole thing as I can.

“He’s popped his head in (to practice) every once in awhile. He’ll give me observations. He’s watched every game Louisville’s played since I came back as a staff member. We talk about basketball, but he’s my dad first and foremost and he’s just going to do what he can to support me and try to make sure I’m successful.”

Tyra said he knows it is vital to get some coaching assistance for Padgett as soon as possible. He said Johnson and Fair are “still with us, still employed” and not barred from campus, but have not been involved with the basketball team since last week.

“Today I met with compliance to get up to speed on our situation (with the basketball program) and start to dig into what’s happening, what do they know,” Tyra says. “And I know that’s the most pressing. … I’ve got to clear distractions for David and this team to get on with business, and I’m going to try and do that as quickly as I can. That’s something I’m working on literally as we speak and will be on the phone as soon as I leave here.

“David at this point is a one-man band, and that’s part of the issue. You can do that for a practice or two, but that’s not a good recipe, so I’ve got to solve that.”

Other than expressing his desire to get some assistant coaches onboard quickly, Padgett had no complaints about how things have gone in the early stages of his head coaching career.

“We’re glad to be back practicing,” he says. “It’s important to return to some sense of normalcy and we’re getting there because we’ve been able to practice and focus on the hardwood stuff. It’s been a good couple days. I’m starting to sleep a little bit, which is good. Things are starting to slow down and we’re moving in the right direction.

“The good thing, and you guys are going to get tired of hearing me say it, is these players I have on this team just make my job so much easier. They’re low maintenance, they play hard every single day the whole time we’re out there. A lot of them are experienced, so they know what to do. There’s still a lot of teaching, but they make my job easier because they listen, they want to be good, they want to be coached and it just helps me tremendously.”

Trinity star decommits: Trinity High School star David Johnson, a 6-foot-5 guard in the Class of 2019, Wednesday became the third UofL recruit to decommit since the FBI investigation was disclosed a week ago. Earlier, the Cards lost Inferno Simons and Countrney Ramey from the Class of 2018.

Russ Brown, a former sportswriter for The Courier-Journal and USA Today, covers University of Louisville sports for Kentucky Today. He can be reached at 0926.russ.brown@gmail.com.

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