Kenny Payne doesn’t plan to leave UK soon


Kentucky men’s basketball assistant coach Kenny Payne addresses the crowd during Kentucky head coach John Calipari’s women’s clinic at Rupp Arena on Sunday, October 29, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Chris Leach

With Louisville basketball being in a down year, some people view UK men’s basketball assistant head coach Kenny Payne as a favorite to replace interim head coach David Padgett once the season ends.

Payne, who went to Louisville and won a national championship there, addressed the coaching rumors in a press conference on Monday, and said he has no plans of leaving Kentucky anytime soon.

“Louisville changed my life as a young kind coming from Mississippi, to be able to be on a national championship team and learn basketball from a hall of fame coach, I have love for Louisville,” Payne said. “But I have an obligation and love for the University of Kentucky, and the guys siting in this locker room.” 

Payne has been an assistant coach at Kentucky for eight years, and has worked under John Calipari in all eight years at UK. Payne has spent the past four seasons as the associate head coach, who would take over for Calipari in case of a special circumstance. 

Payne certainly has the experience and the knowledge to be a head coach, but one of the things that keeps him attached to UK is being able to work with Calipari. 

“I have a great job, I’m not in a rush, I’m not taking a bad job,” Payne said. “I’ve been blessed to be working with a coach like Coach Cal, who’s a good man. I’ve been blessed to be working with young men that are exceptional young men that are similar to me, dream chasers that are out trying to do something special.”

Payne said he has goals of being a head coach one day, but won’t worry about it until the right opportunity presents itself. 

Meanwhile, Payne thinks the job at Louisville shouldn’t be available, as he’s impressed with what Padgett has been able to do with his team.

“It’s unfair for Coach Padgett, who’s doing an unbelievable job at that university in a tough situation, really tough,” Payne said. “There’s veteran coaches that can’t do what he’s doing right now.”

Louisville, who is currently unranked, is off to a 13-4 start, including 3-1 in conference play. Louisville recently beat No. 23 Florida State on the road to give Padgett his first win against a ranked team. 

While it seems like Payne going to Louisville won’t happen anytime soon, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been discussed with the team.

“Our players didn’t even know I went to Louisville, and when they did find out, they thought I was a football player,” Payne said.