LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — David Padgett understands replacing Louisville coach Rick Pitino would be difficult under any circumstance.
So when Padgett arrived Friday for his introductory news conference as the Cardinals interim men’s basketball coach, after ambling his 6-foot-11 frame to the podium and attempting to pull the microphone up to a comfortable level, he quipped, “I knew this was going to be a problem.”
It won’t be the last time he tries to get comfortable in his new position.
University interim President Greg Postel introduced Padgett, making the announcement after the school had acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation and placed Pitino on unpaid administrative leave. Louisville also has placed athletic director Tom Jurich on paid administrative leave.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Padgett said. “It’s a very tumultuous time.”
Ten people have been arrested in the corruption case, including four college assistant coaches and an Adidas executive. Cardinals 6-foot-7 freshman Brian Bowen was not named in federal documents, but details in the criminal complaint make it clear investigators were referring to Bowen. Postel also did not single out Bowen, but said Wednesday that one student-athlete has been informed he will not practice or play for the university until the investigation is resolved.
When Padgett was asked about the investigation, he declined to comment. He did say Bowen is still enrolled at Louisville.
After Postel introduced Padgett, the interim president did not take any questions.
The 32-year-old Padgett seemed relaxed and appears ready to step in.
Padgett said he is taking the interim position for “the team,” but he is “not looking past the next six, eight months.”
He is coming off his first season as an assistant following two as Louisville’s director of basketball operations. A three-year starting forward with the Cardinals under Pitino, Padgett has worked extensively with frontcourt players.
“My focus right now is on these kids,” said Padgett, who added that he last talked with Pitino on Wednesday. “They’re here to play basketball.”
The captains of this year’s team supported the selection of Padgett.
“He’s been in this system,” said 7-foot center Anas Mahmoud. “One of the basketball reasons we wanted DP was because there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of changes. We don’t want anything to distract us even more than what we were already in.
“A completely new coach and new philosophy is something we didn’t want because we don’t have the time. He’s been here, he’s done it before and he’s going to pass that knowledge down to us.”
Forward Deng Adel said Padgett has a great history with the team.
“He’s a player’s coach, so he has a different relationship with all of us,” Adel said. “We can approach him easily without concerns. He’s loud in practice and it is fun to have him around.”
Padgett was Louisville’s strength coach from 2010-11 and spent three years as an IUPUI assistant. But his Louisville ties made the move easier for him.
“This is Louisville,” Padgett said, “it is a top five program and I’m trying to keep its reputation intact as much as possible.”
That will be one of many challenges Padgett faces as he replaces his mentor, a Hall of Famer.
Pitino, 65, went 416-143 in 16 years with the Cardinals and won the 2013 NCAA championship.
He issued a statement soon after the news conference to a the team’s flagship radio station, WKRD, with instructions to share it with other media.
Pitino reiterated that he was unaware of any payments to recruits or their families. But he added, “I was the head coach and I will take ownership of my decisions. The University took the action they thought was necessary and I will do the same.”
Earlier Friday, WHAS radio host Terry Meiners tweeted a text message from Pitino in which the coach said, “It’s been so tough” dealing with his removal and that he misses his “players so much.”
Pitino has also continued to maintain he has done nothing wrong — saying “the rush to judgment is regrettable” in a statement issued Wednesday through his attorney. Pitino is not named in the federal documents, but his attorney Steve Pence has said Louisville “effectively fired” Pitino when they placed him on administrative leave.
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