Louisville women's basketball coach installs gym slide

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Louisville women's basketball coach Jeff Walz might have turned 51 on Thursday, but he definitely still has some kid in him. Witness the new addition to the Cardinals' practice facility at the Planet Fitness Kueber Center: a slide from the second-floor coaches' offices to the gym floor.

Jody Demling of Cardinal Authority tweeted a photo of the slide as part of Louisville's media day coverage Thursday.

"It's been fun, and players have enjoyed it," Walz told ESPN. "We have had some funny sights as people have come flying down the slide. We put some padding at the bottom. If you haven't practiced sticking your dismount, you have something soft to land on."

Walz got the idea for the slide about five years ago, but the concept spent a lot of time in development. The most important thing, he said, was making sure it complied with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, which is why it is partially enclosed.

"We had a local man in town who does a lot of interesting designs and concepts," Walz said. "He's really creative, and he said, 'I can make it happen.' So he drew it up for us."

Then a donor helped with the financing for construction. Walz said he hoped it would entice Cardinals players to come up to visit the coaches more often, which has been the case. It's also a cool thing to show off in recruiting.

The slide doesn't interfere in any way with practice activities, Walz said, which was part of the safety standards. It's just there for the enjoyment of all who like slides, which includes Walz and his two youngest daughters, ages 9 and 7. Asked if his wife, Lauren, also likes the slide, Walz laughed and said, "No, she said she is not doing that."

Metaphorically, though, "slide" is the last word you would link to the Cardinals' program. Entering his 16th season, Walz is 414-113 and has led Louisville to four appearances in the women's Final Four, including last season when the team finished 29-5. Walz had his contract extended through 2028-29 in March.

Despite losing three starters to graduation, including No. 4 WNBA draft pick Emily Engstler, the Cardinals are ranked No. 7 in the preseason Associated Press poll and picked to finish first in the ACC. That is thanks to the return of starters Hailey Van Lith and Olivia Cochran, and reloading with transfers and recruits.