Updated: Aug 24, 2020
Rumors that Kenny Payne could be accepting a job with the New York Knicks have been circulating for a few weeks now, and a source told me late Sunday evening that he was planning to accept the Knicks job, and Tuesday those words became true. This morning the New York Knicks have officially hired Kenny Payne.
Over the years, plenty of Head Coaching job opportunities have been presented to KP, but none of the caliber to allow him to leave Kentucky. Many people expected for a big time Head Coaching job to come present itself to Kenny Payne, and would ultimately be his big start outside of Lexington, but that never ended up being the case. It was the bright lights of New York, and reconnecting with a good friend of his in World Wide Wes. The Knicks hired William Wesley as the Executive VP Senior Basketball Basketball Advisor to the Knicks program back in June, and that started the buzz for KP's exit. The Knicks also have two former wildcats on their roster in Kevin Knox and Julius Randle. The Knicks are one of very few Assistant Coaching jobs in America that could've been intriguing for Kenny Payne to leave his Associate Head Coaching job at Kentucky for, but that's ultimately what fell into place.
Kenny Payne spent 10 years at Kentucky, which resulted in 295 wins, the 2012 national championship, four Final Four appearances, eight NCAA Tournament berths, five Southeastern Conference regular-season championships, five SEC Tournament titles and 33 NBA Draft picks. Kenny Payne joined UK for the 2010-11 season after six seasons as an assistant at Oregon. He was promoted to associate head coach at Kentucky in May of 2014 after serving his first four seasons as an assistant coach.
"First of all, I want to thank Dr. Eli Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and Coach Cal for the unbelievable opportunity I've had at Kentucky for the last 10 years," Payne said. "I've been blessed to not only coach at the greatest program in college basketball but to be in a position to help young men grow and develop and to play a part in their families' lives. They've been 10 of the most rewarding years of my life, and I'll cherish my time in Lexington for the rest of my career.
"This decision wasn't easy for me. I have a great job at Kentucky, and to think about leaving has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I have also been offered an incredible opportunity with the New York Knicks and a chance to help restore what I believe should be the premier organization in the NBA.
"Big Blue Nation, thank you for embracing me and treating me and my family with respect. You are truly the best fans in college basketball and a major ingredient to what makes UK special. I am a firm believer in Coach Cal, and any player who is talented and has the character and the mental toughness to chase his dreams should want to play for my mentor and coach."
"This is a bittersweet day for us at Kentucky," UK head coach John Calipari said. "Kenny has been an extremely important part of our success here. His relationship with our players is second to none. He coaches them and challenges them as hard as anyone, but they respect him, they listen to him and they learn from him because they know he cares. As a basketball coach and a teacher, he could run any program in the country. Simply, he's as good as they get.
"I was disappointed that Kenny didn't get that chance, but this is one of those opportunities Kenny had to look at, and I fully support his decision to join Tom Thibodeau's staff. Kenny's approach with his players, his knowledge of and his experience in the game, and his work ethic will serve him well on the professional level. I have high expectations for him in the NBA. For Julius Randle and Kevin Knox, it will be immediate, but as other players get to know and trust him, they'll know he's about one thing: their improvement and their success. I have no doubt that Kenny is going to be a great asset to Coach Thibodeau's staff."
Kentucky will take a huge hit losing Kenny Payne, and it will take some big feet to replace him. Well, as I am typing this, more news breaks. Kentucky has just signed Bruiser Flint from Indiana University to replace Kenny Payne. I'll put up a story this evening on his background including everything you need to know about Kentuckys newest addition. I wish the best of luck to KP in New York, as I know he'll continue to do great things.