Rick Pitino’s basketball credentials were never questioned during his time at Louisville. He’s the only coach to win national titles with two different programs, first with Kentucky in 1996 and again in 2013 for the Cardinals.
But the reason Pitino was “effectively fired” from Louisville on Wednesday had nothing to do with wins and losses. The coach’s tenure will be defined by scandal even more than it will the program’s on-court success. After Louisville was found at the center of the FBI’s sprawling investigation into corruption in college basketball, Pitino has finally met the one controversy he couldn’t outlast.
Louisville now needs a new men’s basketball coach (as well as a new athletic director) with practice set to begin on Friday.
3 marquee coaching names
Matta presided over some of Ohio State basketball’s best seasons during his 13-year stay as the Buckeyes’ coach. He won five regular season Big Ten championships and led his team to the Final Four in 2007.
But after missing the NCAA tournament for the second straight year, Matta was let go by Ohio State in June. He’d be an experienced head coaching option for Louisville, and one who always had a reputation for running his program the right way.
Just throwing it out there, but Thad Matta's final statement at the press conference announcing his firing at Ohio State: pic.twitter.com/v5H6GxuVLa
— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) September 27, 2017
With the chaos that has enveloped Louisville, the program could use a culture shift. Matta would bring that.
Crean learned his trade as an assistant under Tom Izzo at Michigan State before proving his chops as a head coach at Marquette. Crean and Dwyane Wade led the Golden Eagles to the Final Four in 2003. In 2008, he left to accept a high-profile job at Indiana.
Crean found some success during his Indiana tenure, but he couldn’t meet the expectations of a demanding fanbase. The Hoosiers made three Sweet 16 appearances, but Crean was fired in March after missing the NCAA tournament this past season.
Crean had to rebuild Indiana in the aftermath of NCAA sanctions from previous coach Kelvin Sampson — relevant experience that Louisville could find appealing. Starting this Friday, the Louisville program will have to be rebuilt from the ground up; there are not many men better suited for the job than Crean.
When Lorenzo Romar was hired at Washington in 2002, the program had not seen consistent success for the better part of two decades. Romar turned the program around on the strength of his recruiting. Romar successfully recruited Markelle Fultz, Isaiah Thomas, Marquese Chriss, and Michael Porter Jr. (Romar would be fired before Porter Jr. could attend). There are few recruiters in college basketball as successful as he is.
Unfortunately for Romar, recruiting wins didn’t translate to real wins. He was fired in March after missing the NCAA tournament in six straight seasons. Still, he won three Pac-12 coach of the year awards and led the program to the Sweet 16 three times during his 16-year tenure.
As the head coach of Division II Louisville powerhouse Bellarmine, Davenport has won the national championship and national coach of the year. Last season Davenport led Bellarmine to the Final Four. Out of all the coaches on this list, Davenport holds the most accomplishments and also the most anonymity. If Louisville doesn’t want to throw this season away, then Davenport could be the best way to go.
The in-house option
David Padgett’s biggest strength and weakness for this job is his proximity to the current program. Detractors might claim even though Padgett hasn’t been implicated in any of Louisville’s scandals that you can’t hire someone so close to Pitino. Supporters will say his proximity to the program will allow the transition to be much smoother than if a brand-new coach were to come and attempt to change the program.
The 32-year-old Padgett is relatively new to the profession. Every other coach on this list would bring massive change to Louisville, while Padgett brings a sense a normalcy that is desperately needed at the moment.