At the final four, david padgett hopes to find ‘the right opportunity’ west la college logo

SAN ANTONIO — david padgett slid into a booth at a mall starbucks in the heart of the growing texas city that served as the host of the final four.

The table was too low for padgett’s 6-foot-11 frame, so he stretched his legs off to the side, extending them into the aisle. He seemed relaxed but somewhat distracted. Wearing a lightweight quarter-zip pullover, his hair pushed back and up. As usual, padgett had somewhere to be after his starbucks visit.

Over the past week, he caught up on sleep and spent time with his two young sons. He answered emails and other messages. He took his wife to nashville for an eagles concert, which, he said, "was awesome, by the way." he planned a family vacation to florida.

But first, padgett came to texas hoping to advance his job search.Head coaches this is a particularly challenging year on the coaching carousel. Not as many top-flight jobs have come open, and some schools have promoted from within or hired outside the college ranks, limiting the number of dominoes falling to create vacancies.

That has created a thread-the-needle situation for padgett, who wants to land somewhere where he can win games and build a program but also knows he may have to return to an assistant coaching job first before he gets that shot.

"The biggest thing is to not rush into something that’s not a great situation, just because it’s an opportunity," padgett said. "Obviously I want to get a head-coaching job. Hopefully, that chance presents itself, but it also might not. … I just want it to be the right opportunity."

Head coaches

The final four is a prime place for coaches to network. Some would-be candidates for assistant jobs have even been known to sit in the lobby of the coaches hotel and hand out business cards and resumes to head coaches as they get off the elevators.

In the halls around the annual coaches convention, coaches with different colored polo shirts mingle. Rumors of coaches who are "available" while still employed percolate, and agents and head coaches plot plans in case an opening comes up.

In san antonio, multiple former louisville staff members were making the rounds with new coach chris mack expected to bring in his own team of assistants and support staffers.

Networking is not something that comes naturally to padgett, who is uncomfortable promoting himself.Biggest thing he was hesitant to sit down for an interview out of concern he might come across as a headline-seeker.

But with his eye on the future, and the understanding that a year out of coaching is not ideal to career advancement, padgett hired an agent and pushed ahead. He’ll be paid through the end of his one-year contract with louisville, but he needs to keep working and fine-tuning his craft.

At 33, the nevadan already reached it, albeit in a way he didn’t anticipate, guiding louisville in an interim role after two seasons as director of basketball operations and one as an assistant.

"That goal is still achievable," padgett said, "but being an assistant at a great program somewhere with a great coach would be very exciting to do if that opportunity came up."

Padgett said

Seth greenberg, a head coach of 22 years who now works as a hoops analyst for ESPN, said padgett carried himself at louisville "in a way that will help" him find another head-coaching job.

"I think he was terrific," greenberg said. "He was poised, calm but forceful. He was put in an impossible situation and made the most of it. That interim thing really limits you from putting your fingerprints on a program. … The next job he gets, he has to be in position to succeed, with good support from the school and his (athletic director)."

As of sunday morning, only a handful of openings remained. The jobs padgett’s name was originally linked to — arkansas-little rock, eastern kentucky, middle tennessee, missouri state and utah state — have all been filled.Padgett said

The fresno state job could create an opening on the west coast, with UC-irvine and cal state fullerton’s head coaches in the mix, according to ESPN. Same goes for the san diego search, which ESPN also reported has zeroed in on utah valley’s mark pope.

For now, it’s a waiting game for padgett. And that, after taking on the interim head coaching job at louisville two days before formal preseason practices started, is a major change of pace for the young coach.

"I learned a lot about myself this year, from a basketball standpoint and a personal standpoint," padgett said. "I tried not to over-analyze too much. I tried not to second-guess myself. And the biggest thing is just to be honest and be yourself."

Jeff greer: 502-582-4044; jgreer@courierjournal.Com; twitter: @jeffgreer_cj.Head coaches support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.Courier-journal.Com/jeffg.