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Kenny Payne tabbed top assistant coach in SEC

“Coaches care about players or they wouldn’t be in the profession, but few coaches like Kenny will put their own career behind the players like Kenny does.”

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Ever since Kenny Payne arrived at UK in 2010, he’s been a force on the recruiting trail while also developing a wealth of future NBA Draft picks.

That’s led to Payne being regarded as one of the best assistant coaches in college basketball, and that includes some strong praise from Stadium reporter Jeff Goodman.

Goodman, who’s been ranking the top basketball assistants in every Division I conference, tabbed Payne as the top assistant coach in the SEC. Goodman’s ranking also included quotes from UK head coach John Calipari on what Payne has meant to the program.

“Coaches care about players or they wouldn’t be in the profession, but few coaches like Kenny will put their own career behind the players like Kenny does. In recruiting, if we need to wait on a kid, even if it hurts him, he’ll wait. Some of the best players we’ve signed are because Kenny convinced me to wait and had a great relationship with those players. His reputation as a recruiter was at stake, but he thought it was the right thing to do for the kid. As a basketball coach and a teacher, he could run any program in the country, and I’m disappointed he hasn’t had that opportunity already. He does his job with great integrity and great loyalty to the program and the players. His relationship with our players is second to none. He coaches them as hard as anyone, but they respect him, they listen to him and they learn from him because they know he cares. Simply, he’s as good as they get.” – Kentucky coach John Calipari

Payne also drew high praise from an anonymous SEC assistant.

“Obviously Kenny is known as a great recruiter, but many people don’t see how he holds guys accountable and pushes buttons to get the best out of them. Kenny is super connected and is at the forefront of what Kentucky is getting done on the recruiting trail. I think it’s truly amazing! He’s got a great way about him.” – SEC assistant

Earlier this year, Payne was named to the Step Up Hall of Fame, which honors coaches with a great track record of success, outstanding and significant contributions to basketball, and have high character, integrity and respect among colleagues.

Since Payne arrived in Lexington, the Kentucky Wildcats have been to four Final Fours, won a national title, and landed countless five-star recruits who he helped develop into future NBA players. You could argue he’s made as big of an impact on his program as any assistant in college basketball has over that span, so it’s great to see him getting some well-earned praise from the national media.

Hopefully, this also helps put Payne on the radar for some college coaching jobs in the future. He’s made it clear he wants to be a head coach someday, and he’s more than earned a chance to be one.

Who knows, maybe one day he’ll be running the show in Lexington.