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Ex-NBA player, Samford coach Padgett expected to fill UNM assistant vacancy

Samford head coach Scott Padgett watches his Samford team play Virginia Military for the Southern Conference tournament, Friday, March 6, 2020, in Asheville, N.C. Padget is coming to New Mexico to serve as an assistant coach for the Lobos, the Journal has learned. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

The University of New Mexico Lobos are close to finalizing a deal to hire Scott Padgett, the one time Kentucky Wildcat national champion, NBA player and recent head coach at Samford, to fill its vacant assistant coaching position for men’s basketball, the Journal has learned.

While there is no final deal in place and neither Padgett nor UNM head coach Paul Weir would confirm the news, multiple sources have confirmed to the Journal the deal is in the final stages and an announcement, barring any snag in financial terms arising before a contract is signed, will be announced next week.

Padgett would replace Jerome Robinson, the three-year Lobos assistant who decided this offseason to leave the program to pursue other interests, though he has not yet announced what might be next for him and his family.

UNM has $150,000 in its staff and assistant coaching salary pool to pay an assistant coach and any other positions it may want to add this coming season. It is unclear what Padgett’s buyout terms were from Samford and how that would affect his salary at UNM, should the deal be finalized.

Padgett, 44, helped Kentucky to the NCAA championship in 1998 before becoming a first round draft pick of the Utah Jazz, the first of four NBA teams he played for over a nine-year NBA career.

Some anxious fans have been clamoring for the Lobos to add another big man to the roster. While his playing eligibility is expired, the 6-foot-9 Padgett would be looked at immediately to help mentor the team’s forwards, including highly regarded 6-9 freshman Bayron Matos, the Dominican Republic prospect who enrolled early in January but did not play in any games for the Lobos in what will be counted as a redshirt freshman season.

Scott Padgett, right, plays for the New Jersey Nets during Golden State on Nov. 21, 2005. Pietrus later sprained his knee and left the game. Padgett is coming to New Mexico to serve as an assistant coach for the Lobo men’s team, the Journal has learned. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Padgett does have experience and expertise with big men, not only playing at the highest level as one in the NBA. For the two years he served as an assistant at Samford in Birmingham, Alabama before becoming head coach for the 2014-15 season, he helped coach Tim Williams, who then transferred for his final two seasons at UNM. While at Samford, the 6-8 Williams scored 1,018 points in just two seasons. (He scored 921 more points at UNM for a college career total of 1,939 points.)

From the Rick Pitino coaching tree like second-year Lobos assistant Dan McHale, Padgett is also well-versed in a high-pressure, fast-paced style of play that Weir has insisted the Lobos intend to return to this season. In four of his six seasons at Samford, the Bulldogs ranked in the top 100 in tempo and were 25th this past season.

Padgett had an 84-115 career head coaching record at Samford, including going 10-23 this past season.

Padgett has a wife, Cynthia, two sons, Logan and Lucas, and a daughter, Layla. Logan was a 6-6 freshman forward on the Samford roster this past season, but in April announced he was entering the transfer portal and has not yet picked a new school.

It is unclear if he will try to follow his dad to Albuquerque, where UNM has one open scholarship. He perhaps could become a walk-on for the Lobos, who already have three of them — 6-7 junior forward Jordan Arroyo, 6-1 junior guard Clay Patterson and 6-2 redshirt freshman Daniel Headdings. There is not an NCAA limit on walk-ons. Logan Padgett, as a true freshman, played in all 33 games this past season for the Bulldogs, making eight starts and averaging 2.4 points and 3.3 rebounds.

The UNM men’s basketball team is expected to begin voluntary summer workouts in mid-July.

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