LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville basketball is a quieter phenomenon now.
A quieter crowd confirmed as much as watch a quieter staff led by a quieter coach within the season opener Sunday in opposition to George Mason. The Cardinals trailed a lot of the best way and led by only a level with 5 minutes left earlier than pulling away for a 72-61 victory. Other than the uniforms and the combat tune, there wasn’t a lot regular concerning the afternoon.
It was, in sum, a surreal expertise watching a program that had been plugged right into a prodigiously highly effective character for 16 years abruptly transition to various power. In the post-Pitino nuclear winter that has enveloped Louisville, these had been the primary tentative steps into Whatever Comes Next.
The introduced attendance on the 22,000-seat Yum Center was 18,304, about three,000 fewer followers than confirmed up final 12 months to see the Cardinals open in opposition to Evansville. Some followers are indignant on the scandal-ridden state of this system, some are overwhelmed down, some are extra decided than ever to help the hometown staff. The web outcome was fewer butts in seats for a Top 20 staff’s first recreation.
And completely different butts in some alternative seats. The part behind the house bench and on the entrance row throughout from the bench, as soon as thick with Rick Pitino members of the family and cronies, had been occupied by many new faces.
A squad led by emotionally reserved veterans Quentin Snider, Anas Mahmoud and Ray Spalding appeared flat for a lot of the sport. The Cardinals wanted the fiery spark of freshman guard Darius Perry and the clutch capturing of Perry and fellow freshman Jordan Nwora to tug out Louisville’s 14th straight season-opening victory. Before the late surge, there have been occasions when it appeared like everybody was ready for Pitino to reappear and manically browbeat the Cards into dominance.
On the sideline, 32-year-old emergency head coach David Padgett projected a drastically completely different aura than his Hall of Fame predecessor. A mere six weeks right into a job he by no means anticipated to have, Padgett hasn’t precisely had time to develop an in-game persona — however it is going to be a change from the whirling Italian dervish of years previous.
The 6-foot-11 Padgett is a foot taller than Pitino and much much less caustic in his commentary. He is extra vulnerable to providing encouragement than blasts of criticism, even when issues should not continuing easily.
“He’s more calm,” Mahmoud stated. “He stays more composed.”
Mahmoud diplomatically added that there’s nothing fallacious with yelling and screaming. None of the Cardinals had been celebrating the departure of the outdated boss, however in addition they appear pleased with the brand new boss. At least so long as he will get outcomes.
Padgett is 1-Zero as a head coach, however he acknowledged that the hours main as much as the sport didn’t cross simply. He immersed himself in faculty soccer Saturday night time, slept for a few hours, then started ready for tipoff. That got here at 2 p.m., however by the point it arrived he stated it felt like 9 p.m.
“I think our guys were anxious,” Padgett stated, and the identical went for him.
Padgett did discover himself copying one Pitino trademark, the foot stomp to get his gamers’ consideration. But incessantly teaching each dribble and each defensive slide was not his factor, nor does it look like the fashion of recent badistant coaches Trent Johnson, Greg Paulus and R.J. Evans. (Johnson and Paulus are so new to this system that they aren’t even within the swiftly redone Louisville media information. The complete workers is pulling this factor collectively on the fly, a rush-job chemistry experiment.)
When the Cardinals staggered out of the gate in opposition to George Mason, lacking photographs in bulk and trailing a lot of the first half, Padgett remained upbeat and avoided barking at his gamers. How would Pitino have dealt with such a begin?
“Coach P would have killed us,” main scorer Deng Adel stated with fun.
Louisville basketball will likely be much less of a present, much less of a spectacle, much less Broadway leisure, with out Pitino. The fixed blasts of charisma, humor and anger is not going to be replaceable. The sideline genius doubtless is not going to be replaceable both, though followers have already got begun the historic revisionism that comes with a bitter separation. (Samples: Pitino didn’t let freshmen play, he didn’t coach offense, he didn’t recruit shooters — but in some way he gained 416 video games because the coach of the Cardinals.)
But the late-career scandals and melodrama gained’t be missed. It’s actually unhappy that Pitino can not get a hero’s send-off from the Yum Center crowd, however that’s the place the coach put himself in.
As of Sunday, there isn’t any point out of Pitino wherever throughout the enviornment seating space. The solely tangible proof of his time at Louisville hangs from the rafters: Final Four banners from 2005 and ’12, and the nationwide championship banner from 2013. And that title banner needs to be coming down quickly, forfeited as a part of the penalties for the stripper scandal that landed this system on probation earlier than the newest scandal price Pitino his job.
In Rick Pitino’s absence, Louisville strikes tentatively ahead into an unsure future. The solely certainty is that it is going to be quieter — for higher and for worse.
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