LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — David Padgett seemed to enjoy the change of pace.
The interim Louisville men’s basketball coach got a chance to answer more questions about basketball than the hoard of legal turmoil surrounding the program he now runs. The university’s involvement in a federal investigation has brought on a drastic change in both Padgett’s life and the direction of the basketball program — all in just over a week.
“We’re returning to some sense of normalcy,” Padgett said Wednesday, “and we’re getting there because we’ve been able to practice and focus on the hardwood.”
Padgett is adapting on the fly since being named as Louisville’s interim replacement for coach Rick Pitino, who was placed on unpaid administrative leave Sept. 27 after the school acknowledged its involvement in the investigation .
There has been a constant stream of questions about the probe, Pitino, athletic director Tom Jurich and freshman Brian Bowen. And the inquiries won’t stop anytime soon. But on the fourth official practice day, Padgett was happy to discuss what’s happening on the court rather than the drama off of it.
“It’s been a good couple of days,” Padgett said, “things are starting to slow down. I’m starting to sleep a little bit, which is good. … We’re moving in the right direction.”
At 32, Padgett is the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I and admittedly green in many phases. He’s coming off his first year as a Louisville assistant after two seasons as its director of basketball operations.
For the moment, Padgett is also on his own.
Louisville’s athletic board voted Monday to proceed with firing Pitino after 16 seasons as coach. Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave and the school’s trustee board will review his status at its Oct. 18 meeting.
Cardinal assistants Kenny Johnson and Jordan Fair are still on staff and allowed on campus. But acting athletic director Vince Tyra said they’re not participating as the school reviews the investigation.
“That’s something I’m working on,” said Tyra, named on Tuesday to replace Jurich.
“At this point David is a one-man band and he’s out there trying to do what he can, and that’s part of the issue. You can do that for a practice or two, but that’s not a good recipe. And I’ve got to solve that.”
Padgett has a support system close by after his parents flew in from Nevada after his promotion. His father Pete, who coached Padgett in high school, has offered advice.
“I just need him to be my dad,” Padgett said.
Through the first few practices, Padgett had gained the Cardinals’ attention and respect with his booming baritone voice and familiarity with the roster.
Louisville returns 7-footer Anas Mahmoud and guard Quentin Snider, both seniors, and junior forward Deng Adel. The three are team captains, and Padgett said they’ve shown good leadership with recruits such as 6-11 Malik Williams.
Padgett said that’s necessary as he works to keep Louisville focused on basketball.
“I’m a players’ coach,” Padgett said. “There’s going to be times when I have to get on them, and the job of every assistant coach in the world is when the head coach gets on you, someone’s got to pick you back up.
“I think that dynamic changes a little bit, but that’s just something we kind of work on as we go.”
One notable absence is the 6-7 Bowen, who is still enrolled at Louisville. The player’s name was not released by federal prosecutors, but details in the criminal complaint make it clear investigators were referring to the high school All-American.
Bowen has hired an attorney, Miami-based Jason Setchen, but the lawyer has not returned messages from The Associated Press.
University interim President Greg Postel did not name Bowen in his remarks last week, said a “student-athlete” is being held out of practice and games until allegations are resolved.