Coaching relationship highlights Louisville-Seton Hall matchup
LOUISVILLE — Sunday’s showdown between Seton Hall and No. 17 Louisville should feel like a family reunion for Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and Louisville’s David Padgett — but it’ll have to wait until after the game.
“I’m not going to be taking him out to dinner before the game or anything,” Padgett said. “We’ll be friends again after the game, but I know he wants to beat us and we want to beat him.”
Willard said it’ll be all business Sunday.
“I no longer have an emotional attachment to Louisville. Coach (Rick) Pitino isn’t there anymore. (Athletic director) Tom Jurich isn’t there,” Willard said. “I’m just more concerned with getting our guys ready to play a road game in a great environment.”
Willard helped recruit Padgett to Louisville and coached him during his sophomore and junior seasons on Pitino’s coaching staff before he took his first head coaching job. And when Pitino was suspended and fired earlier this year, Willard was one of the first to call Padgett to offer his support and advice.
“He was extremely supportive, with advice about being a first-time head coach,” Padgett said. “We have always had a great relationship.”
Because Willard and Padgett are both from the Pitino coaching tree, there are some defensive similarities, but Padgett didn’t anticipate an advantage for either side based on familiarity.
“This is going to be a great test for our guys,” said Willard, whose team is 6-1. “I know how difficult it is to play at Louisville, but it’s going to prepare us for the Big East. It’s like going to Creighton. It’s going to prepare us for going to Villanova.”
Louisville is coming off its first loss of the season, a nine-point defeat at Purdue. The Cardinals (4-1) faced a pair of elite big men at Purdue, but neither can compare to the rebounding prowess of Pirates star forward Angel Delgado.
“I know Angel coming back this season is huge for their team,” Padgett said.
“I know he was contemplating making the leap to the NBA. … He led the country in rebounds last year, and he’s good again this year. Angel is averaging about four offensive rebounds per game. And their entire team is strong on the boards.”
The Pirates are led by Desi Rodriguez’s 18.7 points per game. Myles Powell is averaging 14.7 and Delgado is averaging 13.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.
“He’s strong, but he takes up a lot of space and then he pursues the ball,” Padgett said. “We have to be the first person to put a body on him and then keep him off the offensive glass as well.”
Louisville is led by wing Deng Adel’s 16.6 points per game. Ray Spalding, a 6-foot-11 jumping jack, is averaging 11.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Padgett said he knows his team is a good shooting team, but several of the Cardinals’ top scoring options haven’t been stellar so far this season. Point guard Quentin Snider is averaging just 7.2 points per game and center Anas Mahmoud is averaging 8.2 points.
“(The thing) we have harped on the last few days is us executing the offense and getting to the end of our plays,” Padgett said. “Our older guys know what to do — they need to figure out some spacing — but there are a lot things we can build on.”
Snider, in particular, is one of the top shooters on the team in workouts, but he is hitting only 29.5 percent of his shots, including 24 percent of his 3-point attempts.
“All it takes for Q is a game where he hits three or four shots,” Padgett said. “You can’t get out of a shooting slump by not shooting the ball. He is going to be fine. He does other things that are vital to our team and he just has to keep shooting.”