By Matt Bradshaw —
It is officially the offseason for men’s basketball after their defeat in the NIT quarterfinals. The 2017-18 season was solid with 20 plus wins, but the Cardinals were perhaps not as successful as expected.
With coaching controversies and NCAA interference in the past, the last thing Cardinal fans want is an uncertain future. Nonetheless, the potential for a new coach, departing players and lackluster recruits bodes an uncertain 2018-19 season.
Who will fill the void of Pitino?
After parting ways with interim coach David Padgett at the end of the season, the University of Louisville needs a head coach for the men’s basketball team.
Padgett was a great fit for the 2017-18 team that needed a rock during slippery times. The former player offered youth, a new face and experience under former head coach Rick Pitino. However, his run was only temporary, as his title signified.
For more than 40 years, the city of Louisville was used to having a successful basketball coach there for the long-hall. Pitino filled the shoes of legend Denny Crum. Now, the torch will be passed to one coach among a few possible candidates.
Chris Mack of Xavier
Mack is a clear frontrunner for the job. He took Xavier to the NCAAs in seven of eight seasons, reached the Sweet 16 in four of those trips, and is good with the media amidst all the success.
Kenny Payne of Kentucky
Payne is the top assistant coach at the University of Kentucky and former Cardinal basketball player. Working with head coach John Calipari since 2010, he is now one of the highest paid assistant coaches in college basketball.
Payne was also a member of Louisville’s 1986 NCAA championship team, so he has the championship experience along with his coaching knowledge.
Scott Davenport of Bellarmine
Davenport was an assistant at U of L for nine years before taking Bellarmine to a DII national title in 2011. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament each of the past nine years, and Davenport brings a connection to the community after coaching at Ballard High School in Louisville before U of L.
Other options are Kevin Keatts (NC State), Eric Musselman (Nevada) and Shaka Smart (Texas).
Should you stay or should you go?
The current team has two departing seniors, and the return of several players is uncertain.
Juniors Deng Adel and Ray Spalding will likely test their talents in the NBA draft, leading to their possible departure.
Freshman Jordan Nwora and sophomore V. J. King are bright young talents and both have said their futures are uncertain. They remain possible transfer candidates.
Freshman Darius Perry and redshirt sophomore Ryan McMahon have said they intend to return to Louisville. Freshman Malik Williams and redshirt sophomore Dwayne Sutton will also most likely return.
Louisville basketball could not have taken a more devastating blow than it did this past season. The sack of Pitino and vacation of wins paints a bleak picture for the future of Cardinal recruitment.
High-profile players such as Brian Bowen, Courtney Ramey, Anfernee Simons and David Johnson all stepped away from commitments with Louisville. Moreover, there is no telling the damage that has been done to potential recruits who would have considered Louisville in the future.
With voids that need filling in the front court, the basketball team will end up counting on walk-ons and whatever potential players a new coach may bring.
You can follow Matt Bradshaw on Twitter @bradmatt8.
Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal