By Jody Demling - Cardinal Authority

Louisville coach Rick Pitino said assistant Mike Balado is "ready" to become a head coach; his name has been linked to Arkansas State job

INDIANAPOLIS - University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said assistant Mike Balado is "ready" to become a head coach. Balado's name has been linked to the Arkansas State job.

University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has a lengthy coaching tree.

Pitino has tons of former assistant coaches who are now in the head coaching ranks, including four ex-assistant coaches - Kevin Keatts, Mick Cronin, Richard Pitino and Kevin Willard - who are in this year's NCAA Tournament.

As his team prepares for its opener against Jacksonville State in the NCAA, Pitino said on Thursday that he could see his coaching tree growing by at least one more during this offseason.

U of L assistant coach Mike Balado's name has been linked to the opening at Arkansas State. Balado was a candidate there last year and Pitino said he feels like Balado is "ready" to be a head coach.

"He's more than ready," Pitino said. "I just want him to make sure; I don't want him to leave; I want him to stay. The same thing with (U of L assistants Kenny Johnson and David Padgett). I want to make sure he takes the right job, because certain guys sometimes take the wrong job."

Balado was hired at U of L in April of 2013 after serving as an assistant for Richard Pitino at Florida International. Prior to that, Balado spent time at High Point (2009-12), Miami (2008-09), Florida Atlantic (2005-2008) and at Miami Dade College and Nova Southeastern University.

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