Earlier this year, just before the start of the college basketball season, a major scandal rocked the NCAA. The corruption included several high-profile coaches, advertisers, and agents, among them, celebrated Louisville coach, Rick Pitino.
Coach Pitino was ousted, and, in the early weeks of the season, his replacement, David Padgett, is still trying to find his stride. A recent Associated Press story paints the picture: Padgett in his office, shelves lined with books and mementos. Open boxes stacked against another wall, the very picture of a new tenant. Padgett says the on-the-job training suits him just fine, though the transition has been awkward for other reasons. First, he was left holding the bag filled with Louisville’s current PR crisis. That, in and of itself, is a big enough job, but Padgett also has to handle all the coaching, recruiting, and brand promotion expected of an NCAA coach at a top basketball school. Then there’s the elephant in the room, which Padgett described to the Associated Press:
“It was awkward because I worked for (Pitino) but obviously because I played for him… It’s your boss’ and then all of a sudden I’m sitting in that seat, it took some time to get used to. I still think about it once in a while, but the more time that goes on, it seems to get more comfortable.”
More comfortable, surely, but that doesn’t mean the Louisville faithful don’t look at Padgett and still see Pitino over his shoulder. When you play for a guy, then work for a guy … then replace that same guy … it’s tough. When that guy is a living legend… Well, that’s an entirely different level of “awkward.” Some are saying the time is right to give Padgett room to breathe. Ease up on the anvil weight that is the pressure to win at Louisville. Let the guy get his feet under him and give him time to banish his boss’ shadow. Even if he’s given that grace period, Padgett still has a tall order on his plate.
He’s certainly putting in the work. In early, home late most days, where his wife and children are waiting. They, too, are adjusting to an entirely different level of the spotlight. What happens next? Only the season can tell us. Maybe Padgett fulfills all the hopes and keeps Louisville in contention. Maybe he struggles to get out from Pitino’s shadow. At this point, that question remains unanswered. But, if you ask the Louisville faithful, they’re rooting for him.