Talk about who should be the next coach of the Louisville men’s basketball program has turned to Kenny Payne, Kentucky Coach John Calipari’s longtime assistant and a former standout player for the Cardinals.
“Hiring Kenny would bring the players, the fans and the city together again,” Billy Thompson, who was on Louisville’s 1986 NCAA title team, told Bozich. “People would look at Louisville and say, ‘They’ve got it going on again.’”
Courier Journal columnist Tim Sullivan weighed in with a comment on Twitter on Thursday morning: “Former trustee says Kenny Payne ‘checks all the boxes’ to be #Louisville’s next basketball coach. Well-connected coach says it will be #Xavier’s Chris Mack.”
WDRB’s Jason Riley posted a Twitter poll on Wednesday that had more than 1,700 votes on Thursday morning with 78 percent voting they would not like to see Payne as the next Cardinals coach. Commenters on Twitter seemed to indicate their distaste for Payne’s connection to Calipari and UK overrode any sentimentality for him as a player for the Cards’ program.
Louisville is currently under the direction of interim head coach David Padgett after the firing of Rick Pitino in the wake of an FBI investigation into alleged college basketball corruption late last year.
In Bozich’s column, Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who has close ties to Calipari, said Payne would make a great head coach anywhere and wondered why Payne hasn’t stepped out on his own.
“I go to Kentucky practices all the time and see what Kenny does,” Brown told Bozich. “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.”
Payne has not commented on any of the speculation. He has been an assistant under Calipari at UK since 2010. He played for Louisville from 1985 to 1989 and has won a national title with the Cards in 1986 and with the Cats as an assistant in 2012.