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Mark Story: His 'pity party' over, ex-Cat Scott Padgett has a plan for making a coaching comeback

Lexington Herald-Leader logo Lexington Herald-Leader 5/28/2020 By Mark Story, Lexington Herald-Leader

Newly without a job and stuck at home in Birmingham riding out the coronavirus quarantine, Scott Padgett reached a tipping point.

“I was like, ‘Man, I am over this. I am bored out of my mind,’” says Padgett, the starting power forward for Tubby Smith on Kentucky’s 1998 NCAA championship team. “I was tired of sitting around. There’s only so much Netflix I can watch.”

So when Padgett’s wife, the former University of Kentucky volleyball standout Cynthia Dozier, suggested a spur-of-the-moment trip for the couple and their three children to visit her mother in Stevensville, Montana, the idea found a receptive audience.

“Cynthia just said, ‘You know, if we went out to my Mom’s, we could do whatever we liked. There’s fishing on people’s property. We could get out of the house,’” says Scott Padgett. “So we literally just got in the car, threw everybody in the car, and drove cross country.”

This spring has been a time of transition for Padgett. After six seasons as Samford head men’s basketball coach, Padgett, 44, was axed by Athletics Director Martin Newton after the Bulldogs went 10-23 in 2019-20.

In Padgett’s six years as Samford head man, the school had two winning seasons. That included a 20-16 mark in 2016-17, the school’s first 20-victory campaign in 11 years.

“Like probably a lot of people (who lose a job), I spent the first two weeks mad and angry, trying to figure it out and all that stuff,” Padgett says. “I had my little week or two of pity party, then I had to get back to trying to get better at stuff. I have a full intent of coaching again.”

When Padgett took over a Samford program that had gone the eight prior seasons without producing a winning record, he says his plan was to build without shortcuts.

Samford went 13-19 in Padgett’s first year as head coach (2014-15), then improved to 14-19 and 20-16 over the next two seasons.

“My first three years went exactly as I was planning them out,” Padgett says. “I told our staff, ‘We are not going to try to be quick with this and turn it around with crazy signings, off-the-wall guys and all that stuff.’”

Entering the 2017-18 season, Padgett thought he had a team that could contend for the Southern Conference championship. However, injuries sidelined standout big man Wyatt Walker after two games and starting point guard Christen Cunningham, the former Henry Clay star, after nine contests.

“Year four, that’s where you’ve got to go win (the conference),” Padgett says. “We were in position for it. Then my two biggest leaders, my two best players, really, they go down. And we had a rough year.”

Instead of winning the league, Samford limped home 10-22.

After that challenging season, Cunningham (Louisville), Walker (North Carolina State) and wing Justin Coleman (Arizona) all used the graduate-transfer rule to leave Samford for brighter lights.

In spite of the massive loss of veteran production, Samford bounced back to go 17-16 in 2018-19. But another injury-plagued campaign contributed to this past season’s 10-23 slog.

“(Being fired) wasn’t something I expected,” Padgett says. “But when it is all said and done, when you are in (the coaching) business and you have bad years, anything can happen. And we had a bad year.”

Though second chances for college coaches fired for losing can be scarce, Padgett believes he will get another opportunity to be a head coach.

“I do. When, I don’t know,” Padgett says. “I’m sure I am going to have to be an assistant for a little while and help a program win and succeed and move back up. I think, somewhere down the line, I will get another shot.”

Padgett says Samford still owes him for the final two seasons left on his contract. For that reason, Padgett says he can be selective in picking the spot from which he will relaunch his coaching career.

If he can’t find the right coaching job for 2020-21, Padgett says he may do some NBA scouting or explore working as a color analyst for TV broadcasts of college basketball games.

On the trip west with his family, Padgett stopped in Laramie, Wyo., to visit with a former Kentucky teammate who could commiserate over losing a college basketball head coaching job this spring.

Ex-UK swingman Allen Edwards was fired as Wyoming head coach after going 8-24 and 9-24 (2019-20) the past two seasons. Edwards had won 23 and 20 games, respectively, in his first two years as Cowboys head man.

“We hung out a little while, talked and had dinner,” Padgett says of his time with Edwards. “We talked a lot about (having been fired). There were some similarities in our situations.”

Now enjoying the wide-open spaces of Montana with his family, Padgett says he has chosen to view being fired as Samford basketball coach as a personal-growth opportunity.

“I’ve always been a guy that, whenever I’ve ever had a failure, I go and try to learn from it and get better from it,” he says. “And I don’t feel like this situation is any different.”

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©2020 the Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, Ky.)

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