LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – I don’t need to invest more than two paragraphs to remind you how Rick Pitino coached his basketball teams.
The foot stomps. The nose-to-nose 110-decibel corrections. The twirling, pacing and raging along the bench. The snarling profanity – sometimes used in connection with a player’s name.
Players will tell you that Pitino’s practices at the University of Louisville were all that – on steroids.
“Profane?” said freshman forward Lance Thomas. “Sometimes.”
A fear factor? The guys on the Louisville team who played for Pitino will confirm that one existed.
“The playing style that was here was mostly because of him,” said Deng Adel, the Cardinals’ junior forward. “Just his will to win, it’s carried on to a lot of us, it’s still in all of us, how he approached every thing.”
It’s been more than a month since David Padgett became the interim replacement coach for Pitino, who was fired for issues percolating around the Cardinals’ program.
Do not expect David Padgett to stomp his feet. At 6 feet 11, Padgett will never be able to twirl as acrobatically as Pitino twirled. And the language?
“Not as profane,” Thomas said. “DP is DP.”
“There hasn’t been any running on the treadmill,” V.J. King said. “Nobody’s been thrown out of practice. If something does happen, we usually run as a team.”
“It’s different,” Adel said. “DP is more laid back. Guys are enjoying practice a lot better.”
“I think DP has been great so far,” Adel said. “He’s laid back and looking after everybody, making sure we’re look after our bodies and not killing us too much in practice, but working enough to where we can get better as a team.”
On Oct. 29, there is an all-clear to laugh at the motivational contrasts between a Hall of Fame motivator and an interim first-time head coach tossed into a difficult and daunting assignment.
Even in his absence, Rick Pitino remains “Coach P.” Even after his elevation to the lead chair on the bench, David Padgett remains, “DP,” a small but noteworthy contrast.”
How will it all work?
The answers will begin to arrive Monday night. Louisville will play its first exhibition game against Kentucky Wesleyan at 7 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center.
This is a program the Cardinals defeated by 38 points in an exhibition before last season, but only by 9 points two seasons ago.
If the Cardinals start this season with gusto, outsiders will suggest that the players are more relaxed, more efficient and more productive while playing without the Fear Factor.
If the Cardinals start the season with considerable gaps in their play, outsiders will suggest they miss the demanding culture that Pitino fueled and maintained.
Fair? Not really.
Every team is different. This Louisville team has an inexperienced group of reserves that Pitino needed to develop. The usual questions about proven three-point shooting must be answered every season. Somebody will have to emerge to replace Donovan Mitchell as the alpha male. Defense takes time.
Padgett is a sharp, thoughtful and poised guy, but he’s still going to be a rookie in creating game plans, working officials, dealing with distractions and trying to replace a coach that every player on this roster came to town expecting to play for over their entire careers.
But today, on the eve of the season, the Louisville players have experienced the contrast between the two men – and are convinced that Padgett’s style is a style that will work with them.
“If you take away the fear factor it just builds more respect,” freshman point guard Darius Perry said “It’s not so much that we’re afraid of things so that we do things. It’s just that we respect him so much that we’re just going to do what he tells us.
“Some coaches can do the Fear Factor thing, so we’re not going to cut corners and stuff because we’re scared of what he’s going to do. With Coach Padgett, we just respect him so much that we wouldn’t want to want to cut corners on him.”
“What happened, happened,” Adel said. “We’ve all moved on. We’re excited for this season … With the talent we have, I think it’s going to work.”