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Kenny Payne expected to join Arkansas staff or leave for NBA instead of Kentucky return

Screen Shot 2024-05-28 at 9.09.17 AMby:Kaiden Smith04/18/24


Many are curious about what the future will hold for former Louisville head coach Kenny Payne, who was fired last season following a disappointing 12–52 record in his two years as the Cardinals head coach.

Payne’s head coaching debut did not go as planned, as he’ll now head back to the assistant coaching ranks once again. With some believing that he main return to Kentucky following a decade-long tenure on the Wildcats’ coaching staff. But KSR’s Matt Jones reported Thursday morning that the reunion is likely not in the cards.

“I think for about 48 hours, Kentucky had really put a lot of emphasis and attempts at getting Kenny Payne, former UK assistant and UofL head coach. I believe yesterday he decided not to do it. Obviously, that could change but that’s what I heard toward last night,” Jones said.

New Kentucky head coach Mark Pope continues to work towards building his coaching staff after being hired by to his alma mater last week. A staff that it sounds like Payne will not be a part of ahead of Pope’s first season at the helm.

But according to Jones, reuniting with former Kentucky head man John Calipari at his new destination in Arkansas or to the NBA level could be in store next for Payne.

“He is likely to either go to Arkansas — I’m told Arkansas that the [Tyson] chicken people maybe said to him, ‘Take whatever they offer him just add to it,'” Jones revealed. “But he also may go to the NBA but it’s very unlikely now that he goes here [Kentucky].”

Payne coached under Calipari at Kentucky between 2010 and 2014 as an assitant before being promoted to associate head coach for his next six seasons in Lexington. A part of the Wildcats’ staff for their 2012 NCAA Championship victory and six SEC Tournament wins.

But he also spent two seasons at the NBA level between his time with Kentucky and Louisville. Spending two years as an assistant for the New York Knicks under Tom Thibodeau, who most recently led the Knicks to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference ahead of the NBA Playoffs.

Payne also has connections to the NBA from his playing career, selected out of Louisville by the Philadelphia 76ers with the No. 19 overall pick of the 1989 NBA Draft where he spent four seasons.

There’s no denying that Payne will add value to the next coaching staff he joins, as it will surely be interesting to see what his next move is in the near future.