CRAWFORD | For Louisville's Padgett, a splash of delight amid the strain

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It was, for once, a jubilant locker room after a big game. In a season of firsts for Louisville interim basketball coach David Padgett, this was a welcome one.

Hard as I try, there’s no way I can imagine Padgett kicking back in his (giant-sized) easy chair, looking up at the ceiling and thinking, “Isn’t this fun!”

From the second he was named the provisional successor to Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, a mere two days before practice began amid circumstances not before seen in the college game, he’s been under pressure. Whether it was running practices by himself to hiring a staff to winning games to losing a few of them, he’s been the guy showing up with a firehose and a whistle trying to fix things – and build a winner.

When the Cardinals lost their cool and dropped a 31-point decision at Kentucky, the screws tightened. When they took a nationally ranked Clemson team to overtime on the road but came up short, they got cranked another turn.

So when the Cards came from 17-points down to beat No. 23-ranked Florida State Wednesday night, I wondered if that might’ve gotten a smile from Padgett. I asked him if he’s had a chance to have fun at the job yet.

As you might expect if you’ve been paying attention to Padgett, his answer quickly veered off of himself, and into the direction of his players.

“Locker rooms after a good win like that are always fun, just to see our guys,” he said. “That’s the best part, just to see how happy they were, because I know how frustrated they were with Purdue, Seton Hall, Clemson, those kinds of games. Just to get that — obviously our older guys have experienced it, but just for the younger guys to experience what a great road win is like — is awesome to see.”

And it’s good to see Padgett get to have that experience, too, even if he doesn’t view it as something to be enjoyed for himself.

Given all Padgett has experienced since September, you could understand if his demeanor might’ve soared toward the jubilant, or at least mildly celebratory. Instead, he showed up for an ESPN interview and answered questions as calmly as if he were reading the news. More calmly, in fact, if the news person in question happens to be a meteorologist during a snowstorm. The more emotional of us would’ve been one step short of Oscar-acceptance-speech proportions, given that Florida had won 28 straight at home, third-longest streak in the nation.

Padgett sounded like he was reading off BINGO…

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