Utah coach Rick Majerus had high praise for Kentucky's players on Sunday, but last summer he didn't want anything to do with one of their best players. Majerus kicked center/forward Scott Padgett off the under-22 U.S. national team after the two had a shouting match.
Tonight Majerus and Padgett will be on opposite sides when Utah and Kentucky meet to decide the national championship."We just had a little misunderstanding," Padgett explained. "It was a heat-of-the-battle thing."
Majerus' national team was playing its final exhibition game against China before departing for Australia to compete in the world championships when the "little misunderstanding" occurred. Padgett scolded a teammate for making a couple of mistakes and, says Majerus, "I really jumped on him."
Majerus and Padgett exchanged heated words on the court. Majerus accused Padgett of not playing hard. "Majerus got in Padgett's face," according to Fresno Bee reporter Andy Katz, who witnessed the confrontation. "He told him, `I'll send you back to Kentucky.' "
Shortly after the game, Majerus, who had to cut two more players from the squad, cut Padgett.
"Under the circumstances we agreed that we would be together for a few weeks, and it was not the best situation in which to play basketball overseas," said Padgett.
"They didn't get along," said Utah center Mike Doleac, who played for Majerus' world championship team. "Their personalities clashed, and there were things that happened that were unfortunate. It was a misunderstanding. Scott wasn't used to coach's personality. He can be very harsh on you sometimes. It went both ways. They didn't mesh."
After leaving the team, Padgett returned to Kentucky but then joined the U.S. World University Games team. That team won the gold medal. Majerus' team placed fifth in the world championships.
"When I made that team, I wanted to show that I am a hard worker and deserved to be on that (world championships) team," says Padgett.
As for Majerus, Padgett says he saw the coach before the Utes played North Carolina on Saturday and wished him well. "There is no ill will between us," says Padgett. "He is a great coach. I have nothing but respect for him."