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Kenny Payne gets strong endorsement to be next Louisville Cardinals head coach

Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown called Payne a “perfect fit” for Louisville.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Would Kenny Payne consider taking over the Louisville Cardinals basketball program?

In a recent article by Rich Bozich for WDRB in Louisville, several former players, and even Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown, have described the Louisville job as the “perfect fit” for someone like Payne.

KP has been with UK since the 2010-11 season, Cal’s second at UK. Kentucky hired Payne from his former position at Oregon to come down and be one of Cal’s assistants. Since then, he has become a valuable cog in Cal’s recruiting machine. He creates strong relationships with players, he recruits and he coaches. He even maintains the connections he builds with players long after they leave Kentucky. He takes an interest in them and helps mold them in their time at UK for success at the next level.

His success and prominence at UK has led to former players and teammates to call for him to return to his alma mater and help start the rebuilding process in the wake of scandals that have rocked the University of Louisville in recent years. Payne played for Coach Danny Crum from 1985-89, and was a freshman reserve on the team that won the 1986 National Championship, the second in school history. He wound up being a 1,000-point scorer for the club and was a first round NBA Draft Pick. Payne’s career spanned more than a decade (mostly played overseas), and, after retiring, Payne decided to complete his unfinished degree, eventually graduating from Louisville.

He’s had great mentors in his coaching career. He played for and learned from Coach Crum, and he’s coached under Cal for 8 years now and been connected to other coaches, like Coach Brown, via his position at UK. He knows how to recruit and build a program in the current climate of college basketball. Former players like Pervis Ellison are confident in Payne’s ability to return Louisville to the top, “If they hire Kenny to step into that job, there won’t be any letdown. The program will go immediately to the top, because Kenny understands how to create and build relationships. He’s paid his dues. He’s been through the grind. He’s ready for this opportunity.” Others, like Billy Thompson, a star on the 1986 championship team, see hiring Payne as a way to bring the city back together and restore confidence in the credibility of the program, “Hiring Kenny would bring the players, the fans and the city together again. People would look at Louisville and say, ‘They’ve got it going on again.’” And Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown has joined the chorus calling for Payne to go to Louisville:

“I go to Kentucky practices all the time and see what Kenny does. He relates so well with kids because he’s not about Kenny, he’s about them. I think I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to be a good coach, and I can’t think of anybody better than Kenny.

“He’s a great teacher who knows how to be hard on his guys but still maintain their respect. He has a unique ability to relate to all of them one-on-one where you can tell how much they love and respect him.

“Honestly, I don’t understand why somebody hasn’t already hired him as a head coach. But with his connections to the Louisville program and the state, it’s a perfect fit to me.”

Despite interest, no other program has been able to lure KP from Kentucky. He has a sweet gig and it would take a lot to sway him away from Lexington. But few programs in the country have the ties that Louisville does to Coach Payne. I don’t think Payne wants to leave Kentucky. He is one of the highest paid assistants in the country and signed an extension last year through the 2020 season. He has access to the best that college basketball has to offer at UK, but he’s never held a head coaching position. He has every incentive to stay at Kentucky and continue having the impact he has there, forming relationships and molding players for the next level. His ties to Louisville are strong and there will be lots of people calling for him to make the move “back home”, but I don’t think they will amount to much.

You can read the rest of the Bozich article here.

How about you guys? What do you think of the possibility of Kenny Payne taking over the Louisville job?