To move forward, Louisville should look to its past

Louisville’s basketball program, shaken to the core by its latest scandal and the departure of Rick Pitino, will have to build again from the ground up. The Cardinals are loaded with talent on their current roster, and should be competitive this coming season under David Padgett. But can the U of L program hold up in an era when college basketball players transfer at a rate higher than ever before?

Can Padgett, or his replacement next season, keep morale high? Even with the looming possibility of major NCAA violations that could impact the school and basketball program for many years to come?

It should go without saying, but the top priority for Louisville in its head coaching search is to find a man with integrity. A coach who doesn’t have the stain of any NCAA improprieties on his resume. Amidst a monumental cascade of bad press coming off a pair of scandals in the twilight of Pitino’s head coaching tenure, Louisville has to spend time rebuilding its reputation. The right long-term fit starts by finding a coach who can repair the program’s image.

From there, the Cards have to find a coach who can look ahead. One who has a vision beyond the immediate gratification of NCAA Tournament appearances and ACC championships.

This is Padgett’s squad, at least for a year. He’ll get a chance to see what he can do with those lofty expectations. But with the strong likelihood of mass attrition and a totally different team this time a year from now, the 2018-19 Louisville head coach will have to see past the current cloud and into the future.

Louisville will have to rebuild its recruiting image by doing things the right way. Part of that is going back to old school recruiting. That means establishing relationships with high school coaches and parents, and getting away from what has gotten them in trouble. Namely, working largely through AAU programs and shoe companies. Pitino can claim plausible deniability that he didn’t know what was going on in the Brian Bowen recruitment. If that’s actually true, that’s a big part of the problem. The new head coach needs to be personally involved in recruiting prospects through the parents and the high school coaches.

Another good idea would be to find assistant coaches and a support system that ties back to the rich history of Louisville basketball. Longtime Louisville reporter Rick Bozich suggested that Padgett bring aboard Butch Beard, the former Cardinal standout of the late sixties. Beard has a total of 11 years of head coaching experience between 1990 and 2006 at Howard and Morgan State.

Another strong possibility as a Louisville assistant would be Jerry Eaves. Eaves, who played in two Final Fours for Louisville in 1980 and 1982, was head coach at North Carolina A&T from 2003 to 2012. He recruited much of the talent that produced North Carolina A&T’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory in 2013. Ironically, Eaves lost to Louisville 79-48 in the following game on U of L’s path to the NCAA title that spring.

The school must find a man who can combine integrity and ethical recruiting, with the right mixture of respect for Louisville’s glorious hardwood past. If they can find such a man, U of L’s basketball future can be much brighter than its present.

Read more: Louisville adds assistant coach to staff