University of Louisville men’s basketball assistant coach Ralph Willard will take a medical leave of absence from the Cardinals’ program to attend to a health issue.
Willard, who re-joined head coach Rick Pitino’s staff in April, has been advised by doctors to back away from his coaching duties to address his medical condition. There is no timetable on the length of his departure.
David Padgett, UofL’s Director of Basketball Operations since April 2014, will move into an assistant coaching position while still managing the operations role.
“Ralph is one of the game’s great teachers and one of my closest friends in life,” said Pitino. “My only concern right now is that he gets healthy and has a speedy recovery from some problems that need immediate attention. We are seeking the best doctors available to assess his situation.
“David knows the system as well as anyone here. He’s played it and is more than capable of stepping in while Ralph is away. I expect it to be a smooth transition.”
“I’m very disappointed that this has happened,” said Willard. “I’m confident that I’m getting the best medical advice to alleviate or correct this situation. Having the opportunity to work with this group all summer has been a tremendously satisfying experience. These young men have been maturing well physically and mentally. I’m looking forward to getting back at the appropriate time.”
Willard joined the Cardinals in April with 39 years of coaching experience, including 19 as a collegiate head basketball coach. He has played an important role this summer in providing individual instruction to players, evaluating prospective student-athletes, and assisting Pitino in all aspects of the Cardinals’ program. He guided the UofL team for its games in Puerto Rico in August while Pitino was coaching the Puerto Rico national team.
Willard, who has served as head coach for four seasons at Western Kentucky (1990-94), five years at Pittsburgh (1994-99) and 10 at Holy Cross (1999-2009), has previously coached with Pitino on three occasions. Willard was an assistant under Pitino with the NBA New York Knicks (1987-89), at the University of Kentucky (1989-90) and at Louisville (2009-10), where he also served a year with the Cardinals as Director of Basketball Operations (2010-11).
Padgett was an assistant men’s basketball coach at IUPUI for three seasons and a former three-year starter at center for the Cardinals. He played professional basketball for UB LaPalma in the Canary Islands for two years following his graduation from UofL. He had reached the final preseason cut of the Miami Heat before his playing career in Spain.
A three-year starter and captain at center for the Cardinals (2005-08), Padgett was a unanimous first team All-Big East Conference selection as a senior and also earned USBWA All-District IV honors. He averaged a team-leading 11.2 points and grabbed 4.8 rebounds his senior year in 2007-08 when the Cardinals reached the NCAA Elite Eight.
Photo Courtesy Louisville Athletics