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Kenny Payne talks about John Calipari and the UK vs. Louisville rivalry

Will the rivalry be friendlier with Payne in charge?

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats are going to see a familiar face this December when they face off against the Louisville Cardinals with Kenny Payne as their head coach.

Payne is a former Cardinal who spent ten seasons with John Calipari in Lexington. Will that relationship and the feelings BBN has for Payne change the tone of the rivalry? Both coaches believe that will be the case, at least for 364 days a year.

On Monday, Payne made an appearance on Jon Rothstein’s podcast, and he shared a story about what Calipari told him after he accepted the job.

“The first thing I have to tell you, this is funny, Cal was speaking to someone, and he called me after he did a speech, and he said, ‘Kenny, I have to tell you what I said to this group. There will be one day a year when I’m going to try to beat Kenny Payne’s head in. I love him, but I want to beat his head in, and he’s going to try to beat my head in.’”

Both coaches are going to want to win every time they face off in the UK vs. UofL rivalry. However, Payne added that nothing will ever trump their friendship.

“Cal is a friend, a mentor, a person that I’ve learned so much from and I love him as a person and his family, Ellen, Brad, and the girls. But also, we both are competitive men. We both want a culture of winning. And that in no way will be, from my side or his side, I don’t believe — it won’t be the negative hatred for John Calipari from me. It’ll be a game that I’m going try to do everything in my power to help my team win and he’s going to do the same. I hope I win by one, but we’ll see how that goes and regardless of what happens, we’re going to give it our best shot.”

We have heard Calipari publicly voice his support for Payne taking the job. Payne talked about Cal being one of the first to reach out.

“Cal was probably one of the first people to say, ‘Kenny, it’s an unbelievable job. It has all the things you just said. It has a great tradition; it has great facilities. It’s a basketball school. You’ve got to — it’s your home. You’ve got to seriously consider it and I hope you take it, for you and for that community.’ He was one of the first people to do that and say that to me.”

Payne talked a lot about the lessons he has learned from both Tom Thibodeau, while with the New York Knicks, and Calipari.

The most valuable lesson he learned from Cal? Keep the players first.

You can listen to Payne’s entire interview on Rothstein’s podcast below.

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