Kenny Payne, a veteran college and NBA coach with seventeen years of coaching experience and a former Cardinal basketball great, was named the new head men's basketball coach at the University of Louisville on March 18, 2022.
Payne most recently served as an assistant coach with the NBA's New York Knicks after fifteen years as a college assistant or associate head coach with both the University of Oregon and the University of Kentucky.
Payne's contract with the Cardinals will be for six years, extending through the 2027-28 season. He is just the sixth head coach to guide the Cardinals in the last 48 years, following Denny Crum (1971-2001), Rick Pitino (2001-17), David Padgett (2017-18, interim), Chris Mack (2018-22) and Mike Pegues (2021-22, interim). Payne is the 23rd head coach in Louisville's 108-year history, the ninth in the past 77 years, and just the fourth since 1971, excluding interim coaches.
Payne has been a part of successful coaching staffs. The Knicks posted a 41-31 record in 2020-21, finishing fourth in NBA Eastern Conference and were 35-45 through April 6. While at Oregon and Kentucky, teams in which he coached reached four Final Fours, participated in 10 NCAA Tournaments (two at Oregon) and won six conference tournaments (one at Oregon), compiling a collective 379-150 record (.716). The 2006-07 Oregon team advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for only the fifth time in school history at that time. Kentucky reached the Final Four in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 with Payne, winning the 2012 NCAA Championship.
Payne was honored in the A STEP UP Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame Class of 2020 for his track record of success, outstanding and significant contributions to the game, as well as his high character, integrity and respect among colleagues.
Payne, who served as associate head coach at Kentucky from 2014-20, played a key role in assembling 11 impressive recruiting classes while at Kentucky, all of which were among the nation’s top three and five that were recognized as the No. 1 class, plus he helped gather a top 20 class at Oregon.
He has been nationally recognized for player development. In Payne’s 10 years at Kentucky, the Wildcats had a player selected in the NBA Draft lottery and had multiple players picked in the first round in every year, including two overall No. 1 selections. In addition, three Oregon players were selected in the first and second rounds of the NBA Draft in Payne’s time there.
As a student-athlete at UofL, Payne scored 1,083 points in his four years (1985-86), connecting on 40.1 percent of his career three-point goals (85-of-212, fourth-highest in UofL history). He was a member of Louisville’ 1986 NCAA Championship team as a freshman and during his collegiate career, Louisville participated in three NCAA Sweet 16s and won three Metro Conference championships and three Metro tournament titles while posting a combined 98-41 record.
As a senior playing under Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum, Payne averaged 14.5 points and 5.7 rebounds and was named to the All-Metro Conference second team as Louisville posted a 24-9 record and reached the NCAA Sweet 16.
He was selected in the first round of the 1989 NBA Draft with the 19th overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers, where he played four seasons (1989-93). He continued to play professional basketball abroad and in the Continental Basketball Association until 2000, with stops at the CBA Tri-Cities (Washington) and with teams in Italy, Japan, Brazil, the Philippines, Cypress, China, Argentina and Australia.
Payne earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sport administration from Louisville in 2003.
Payne earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sport administration from the University of Louisville in 2003.
He and his wife, Michelle, have two children: Alexis and Alexander (Zan), who currently plays on the Kentucky men's basketball team.
Kenny Payne Coaching Career
2004-09 Assistant Coach, University of Oregon
2010-14 Assistant Coach, University of Kentucky
2014-20 Associate Head Coach, University of Kentucky
2020-22 Assistant coach, New York Knicks
2022 Head Coach, University of Louisville