Louisville interim men’s basketball coach David Padgett confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that he would not be retained by the university and will be seeking a coaching position elsewhere.
“I knew this was going to be a one-year deal. I signed a one-year contract, and unless we did something magical it was going to be a little bit of a long shot for me to retain this. But that wasn’t my interest from day one and it never has been,” Padgett said Wednesday, still wearing a Cardinals logo shirt because, he said, that’s all he had to change into at the office. “It’s all about perspective in life for me. I had two very close family members pass away in the last couple of months and as important as basketball is to this place and as important as this place is to me, it’s not life or death.”
Padgett, 33, had served on former head coach Rick Pitino’s staff for three seasons when he was thrust into the role of interim head coach in the wake of the FBI investigation into alleged basketball corruption.
“Obviously I’d like to be the head coach here for the rest of my life,” Padgett said. “That’s how important this place is to me. But like I said a few weeks ago, I don’t live in a fairytale world. … It’s a weird feeling. It’s not a feeling of sadness or anything like that. The circumstances and the situation that we dealt with this year were like none other that happened in college basketball, college sports for that matter. So, we just tried to deal with it the best we could and I think we handled it really, really well.”
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Padgett led the Cardinals to a 22-14 record, including a 9-9 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and two wins in the postseason NIT after missing out on a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“Did I learn a lot? Of course I did. … More than anything, I learned that I have the confidence that I can do this moving forward, and I hope somebody out there will give me a chance to be a head coach somewhere else,” Padgett said.
Last September, two other U of L assistants and Pitino were alluded to, but not named, in a federal indictment. No one connected with Louisville has been charged in the case, but the subsequent controversy led to the dismissal of Pitino, assistants Jordan Fair and Kenny Johnson and athletics director Tom Jurich. The scandal also involved prized recruit Brian Bowen, who was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case, but ruled out of playing at Louisville by the university shortly after the story broke. Bowen transferred to South Carolina.
Padgett expressed no hard feelings over the decision to let him go and said he met with the players personally in their dorm to announce the news.
“I’m going to walk out of this room and hold my head high, because I gave this program and these players every single ounce of energy I had and they did the same in return,” Padgett said.
Padgett also refused to play “what if?” Louisville’s heartbreaking loss to Virginia near the end of the season in a game it led by four points with 0.9 seconds to go likely kept the Cardinals out of the NCAA Tournament.
“I don’t think you could say ‘if you guys made the tournament, you might have had a chance.’” Padgett said. “I don’t think you can play that game, and there’s no point in playing that game. I don’t have any regrets about how anything went this year, but one regret I have is that I didn’t get these seniors a chance to play in the tournament.”
Padgett played for the Cardinals from 2005 to 2008 and began his coaching career at Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis in 2011 before taking a position as director of basketball operations at Louisville in 2014.
“I’ve got to focus on what’s next for me,” Padgett said. “Right now, I don’t have an answer for that.”
Among the many people Padgett thanked Wednesday was Pitino, his former coach and boss.
“He taught me a lot,” Padgett said. “He taught me how to do things on a daily basis the right way, how to do things in the best interests of the players, and I tried to keep that true.”
Vince Tyra, Louisville’s interim athletics director, said he expected to determine a new head coach in a “short period.” Recent speculation has centered on Xavier’s Chris Mack among others.
“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” Tyra said. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching.”