The New York Knicks have officially made the first formal hire to new head coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff on Tuesday, as they have agreed to terms with former University of Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne.
Payne, 53, was rumored to the Knicks for months due to his strong relationship with Knicks president Leon Rose and Knicks executive vice president/senior basketball advisor William Wesley. Now he has officially left the collegiate ranks to coach in New York, his first NBA coaching stint.
Payne spent the last 10 years at Kentucky alongside one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history, John Calipari. He was named the associate head coach in 2014 and is largely credited with developing stars who played for the program, such as Anthony Davis, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Bam Adebayo. The Knicks are hoping Payne will be able to assist in the development of their young players, especially Kevin Knox, who Payne coached when Knox played for Kentucky.
Here’s what New York Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau had to say about the new addition to his coaching staff:
I’m thrilled that Kenny has joined my staff as an assistant coach. He has an outstanding ability to forge relationships with players and improve their skills. He knows what it takes to win and has learned from one of the best coaches there is in John Calipari. Kenny will be a tremendous addition to our organization.
During Payne’s Kentucky tenure, the Wildcats advanced to the Final Four four times and won the National Championship in 2012. He played a role in leading Kentucky to a 38-0 record in 2015, the first time a team accomplished that feat in college basketball history. Payne was also vital to Kentucky’s recruitment process, which finished in the top three nationwide every year.
Before coaching at Kentucky, Payne spent five seasons as an assistant at the University of Oregon. During his time there, the Ducks made two NCAA Tournaments, including one Elite Eight appearance in 2007 and a Pacific-10 Tournament title.
Here’s what Payne had to say about his time at Kentucky and his new job with the Knicks:
I want to thank John Calipari, Eli Capilouto (University of Kentucky president), Mitch Barnhart (athletic director) and the University of Kentucky for allowing me to be a part of a special program for the last 10 years that truly epitomizes winning basketball. I am a better coach and leader of young men today because of my time in Lexington under the legendary Coach Cal.
I now take the next step in my basketball journey and fulfill my dream of coaching in the NBA. I’m beyond grateful and excited for the chance to work for such a prestigious organization as the New York Knicks under the leadership of Leon Rose, Scott Perry, William Wesley and Tom Thibodeau, who I have such great admiration and respect for.
Payne played four years for the University of Louisville, from 1985-1989, and was a member of the 1986 NCAA National Championship team. He was selected 19th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1989 NBA Draft and played four seasons for them (1989-1993) before going to play overseas.