How five days in Louisville changed everything

Padgett hoping to bring stability to Louisville (2:13)

David Padgett expresses his emotions about becoming the interim head coach for the Louisville basketball team and what it means to have the players' support. (2:13)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- He worked the late shift on Wednesday night.

At the local airport, a TSA agent who leaned against a post reacted to a wild week by shaking his head and offering a popular response to the latest Louisville basketball scandal.


He spoke for thousands.

The week's drama left the city in a stupor its ample stock of bourbon couldn't salve. Over a disastrous five-day stretch that could lead to years of consequences, Louisville fans in sports bars, restaurants, shuttles, parking lots, radio stations, lobbies and tailgates endured emotional extremes sparked by a corruption scandal that cost head coach Rick Pitino -- a "god around here," one local woman said -- and athletic director Tom Jurich their jobs, while disrupting the entire national college basketball landscape.

"Welcome," Louisville men's basketball spokesman Kenny Klein said to a reporter who'd arrived that evening. "Not the most enjoyable times here, but we'll keep battling."

Always optimistic, Klein joined a collection of Louisville officials charged with restoring order after Pitino was linked to an alleged scheme -- uncovered by the FBI -- to pay the family of five-star recruit Brian Bowen $100,000 with cash supplied by Adidas executive Jim Gatto.

On Wednesday, Pitino was placed on unpaid leave and Jurich was placed on paid administrative leave, the fallout from the widespread corruption scandal that led to 10 arrests, including four Division I assistants. At least one unnamed Louisville staffer is also linked to the alleged scheme, per the FBI documents attached to the investigation.

It all changed so fast. On Tuesday morning, Louisville was anticipating the start of a season in which it was expected to be in the top 10, with a roster so impressive Pitino had arranged an NBA combine for pro scouts and proclaimed that his current squad had five future first-round picks.

By Thursday morning, however, Louisville fans had lost their legendary coach, a five-star prospect, an athletic director and their sanity for the second time in three years.

In 2015, Louisville skipped a promising postseason after Katina Powell wrote a book about the lascivious parties she'd arranged for the program and its recruits.

The Cardinals had planned to start a new chapter after the NCAA announced its punishments for the sex-for-play scandal -- a $5,000 fine, the likely vacating of the 2013 national title and a five-game suspension for Pitino -- in June.

Then, Louisville appealed. Waiting to be heard by the appeal committee, and then for that committee to reach a decision, only kept the scandal alive. And now, this happened.

After Wednesday's announcement of Pitino's removal, players arrived at the school's practice facility and decided their previously planned conditioning workout that afternoon would have to wait. Encouragement from the team's strength coach, Ray Ganong, inspired the group to press on.

A longtime supporter of the team said she felt relieved after Pitino's exit because "enough is enough." But a shuttle driver for hotels near the airport blamed a "conspiracy" against Pitino.

"I mean, why him? Why?" he repeated.

An Uber driver cruising near the stadium disagreed. To him, Pitino had done this to himself. Again.

"What a f---ing dumbass!" he said.

Those left to recover from the team's second scandal in three years stumbled through the aftermath. On Thursday morning, Kamari Wooten, the assistant director of academic services for the men's basketball team, greeted players as they arrived at the team's practice facility with long handshakes and soothing pats on the back.

Deng Adel and others entered the building with the perplexed stares of young men wondering how the previous 24 hours would affect their lives and the upcoming season. But they'd agreed to support David Padgett, an assistant and former player, as Pitino's replacement.

Padgett's official ascension into the acting head coach role shifted the vibe.

After interim president Greg Postel introduced him on Friday afternoon, the 6-foot-11 Padgett towered over the dais and handled the difficult questions about his ties to Pitino, the scandal and Andy Miller, an NBA agent linked to the FBI investigation.

"It's gonna be a challenge," Padgett said. "No question about it."

By most accounts, Padgett had aced his first news conference. With that, some were ready to move forward, even carrying defiance alongside.

"We're disappointed, but we're here to show everyone our spirits are up," said a man snapping pictures at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium before Louisville's football game with Murray State on Saturday. "Plus, if we're guilty, we're not the only ones."

A man with a scraggly brown beard who strolled between tailgates in the stadium's parking lot also noted the scandal's breadth and declared the NCAA had "set [Pitino] up."

Overall, the football pregame scene felt like a gathering after a funeral, filled with plenty of nods and half-smiles.

But when Padgett and the players were introduced at halftime, fans stood and cheered for nearly two minutes.

The team, the city and the community that had struggled for days now showed hope, if only for a moment.

Those who love the program will, at least.

At an on-campus restaurant, one student had worked late every day, the mess happening all around.

"You know," the student said, "I don't really follow sports, so I'm not sure what's going on."

Many around this program wish they could feel that way -- oblivious and safe from another round of heartache.