Kenny Payne non-starter for Louisville coaching job

Kenny Payne? No thanks.

Kenny Payne was a contributor on UofL’s national championship team in 1986.

A couple of local sportswriters, taking advantage of the ultra sensitive relations between the two schools, are trumpeting Kentucky’s Kenny Payne to be a candidate for the University of Louisville’s head basketball coach.

One has no reason to doubt that Payne is a sharp individual with an ability to relate to college basketball players. But he will never be seriously considered as a contender for the UofL job for obvious reasons.

Rick Bozich, of WDRB TV, calls several former UofL players about Payne, including Billy Thompson, Pervis Ellison, Rodney and Scooter McCray, Jerry Eaves and Butch Beard. The results are predictable, all of them wanting Payne to have a shot at the job.  What did he expect them to say? Bozich even gets Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, most recently at SMU, to endorse Payne because of his ability to relate to players.

David Padgett’s team has won 11 of its first 14 games but the coaching succession talk has already begun (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Tim Sullivan, a Courier-Journal columnist, tweets that “More than one high-rolling Louisville fan has told me the Cardinals’ next coach should be Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne.” In another tweet he says that a former UofL trustee (Jonathan Blue) says that Payne “checks all the boxes,” to be Louisville’s next coach.

Nice try, guys, generating lots of conversation and controversy, not to mention clicks. However, the last time we checked, David Padgett, with the exception of a bad loss to UK, has been doing a decent job with a 11-3 record in his first season, albeit as interim head coach.  The job is not currently open and may not be unless the season winds up in a total dump heap.

Even more importantly, the last thing UofL basketball needs is to hire another coach from UK. It’s going to take years for UofL to recover from the aftermath of Rick Pitino, a former Kentucky coach, who left under dire circumstances with the program’s reputation badly damaged. Constantly looking to UK for coaches is not a good look for UofL.

Also, with Louisville basketball seeking to earn its way back to respectability, why would the school want to take a chance on an individual tied to a UK program many suspect of questionable recruiting. It is well known that UK has close ties with William Wesley, a powerful influence on college basketball recruiting, and that Wesley and Payne go way back.

Curious that Rick Bozich would contact Larry Brown about Payne when three programs with which Brown has been associated — UCLA, Kansas and SMU — were punished for illegal recruiting practices during his tenure. UK Coach John Calipari, well known for his innovative recruiting practices, has his own bad history, with vacated wins and Final Fours at Massachusetts and Memphis.

With the arrests of some assistant coaches and agents back in September, the FBI warned about”the dark underbelly of college athletics,” and indicated that investigations would be ongoing. If the FBI is to be taken at its word, UofL should steer clear of any individual involved in questionable recruiting practices.

Payne was a good player at Louisville from 1985 through the 1989 seasons, competing on UofL ‘s national championship team in 1986. He had a nice jump shot, players seem to like him, and his teams get recruits (see above). As for leadership and coaching abilities, however, the jury is still out.

All David Padgett needs at this juncture is to have some half serious sportswriters and talk show hosts taking advantage of the rivalry to stir up controversy. He had a lot to learn, obviously, but it is much too premature to be discussing any possible successors.

As with Padgett, Kenny Payne has no previous head coaching experience. Ten games into Payne’s first season, we would be having another conversation about the next candidate from UK to be the UofL coach, with much prompting from writers like Bozich and Sullivan.

Enough with the UK harrassment already.