By Ed Peak

Lots of finger pointing connected with this University of Louisville basketball team. Most comments are not complimentary as one should expect for a team with a 2-13 won-lost record. But to place all of the blame on Kenny Payne and his coaching staff is unfair.

Yes Card Nation, all of us are frustrated. The things that have happened to this athletic department since 2016 are unprecedented. We can include the departures of two school presidents as well.

All of the turmoil hurt the men’s basketball program more than most fans realize.  UofL decided to take the Kenny Payne route out of purgatory.

Former AD Tom Jurich did a lot of good things, as did former Coach Rick Pitino. But the end results are some of the reasons this team is limping toward a record setting losing season. One could go on and on about the many missteps in the last several years. But that’s in the past.

Some key players that were on last year’s basketball team are playing elsewhere, including Samuel Williamson (at Southern Methodist) and Dre Davis (at Seton Hall). When Coach Chris Mack left, I blamed some of that on former President Neeli Bendapudi. She wanted Mack dismissed immediately after allegations from his top assistant but then Athletics Director Vince Tyra stood his ground.

Bendapudi was obviously interfering with things in the athletic department. Turns out, however,  her primary motivation was using UofL as a stepping stone to become President of Penn State University. Disappearing in the middle of the night.

In the spring of 2022 under pressure from many outside sources, UofL hired former Cardinal player Kenny Payne as it’s coach. I believe Payne is all in. He is coaching his backside off. He admits to losing sleep over all the losses. The problem is Payne played when Louisville basketball  was among the nation’s best year in and year out. Get to the Final Four or you’ve had a bad season.

Payne can coach. He just needs time. Yes, all of the losses, some of them inexplicable, are frustrating. The blowout at Kentucky was gut wrenching.

This fan base is spoiled with such a great history. Understandably. But so many misfires in the program of late. The turmoil is deep rooted. But to blame Payne is unfair to him. A lot of fans think he can t coach. But Payne has a lot of good ideas and he bleeds Cardinal Red. Make no mistake about that. He cares about the program and his players. He has assistant coaches with a wealth of basketball knowledge.

Where Payne will have earn his trust is recruiting. UofL has to get back to getting those four and five stars with regularity. The NIL should help. Being in the Atlantic Coast Conference is good. It will help players prepare as it’s the premier basketball conference.

Recruiting is no longer a problem with sanctions. Louisville can get back to being a consistent top 25 program. It won’t be easy. It just takes time. Most of these players were given to Payne. He had little time to develop a roster.

Patience and time are what Payne needs. This team isn’t going to win much. But my vote is with Payne. The great healer is time and faith. Give him all the time he needs. It’s not an overnight project.

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By Ed Peak

Ed Peak has covered UofL sports since 1973, as a student reporter, as a correspondent for the Courier-Journal, a freelancer for the Associated Press and United Press International, as well as ScoreCard, Fox Sports and CBS radio.

7 thoughts on “Opposing view: Payne needs time to fix Louisville basketball”
  1. Man, I hope you’re right, Ed. I just don’t think so.

    You say he can coach but all I’ve seen so far is a lack of. If he is retained, I hope he shuts me up and proves me wrong next season.

    And RP/TJ were publicly exonerated by the IARP just a short few months ago. For people to keep using them as scapegoats for this mess is disingenuous or agenda driven.

    I agree on Neeli’s interference causing issues. Very glad she’s gone.

    In the end, we’re all Card fans and want what’s best, whether we agree on the methodology.

  2. Judge not that you be not judged from the good Book! Go Cards! From a diehard Cardinal for 53 years who ran the Red Barn at UofL for 50 years and beers! Great job. Ed and the Racer Man Steve!

  3. I wish someone would show El Ellis that play from the 2013 championship game where Peyton Siva found Montrezl Harrell for a breakaway dunk. I had to see that replay from many angles to understand how Peyton knew Harrell was there. He saw him three (?) steps before he threw the pass, and it is easy, knowing that, that the plan was in place in his mind in the instant when he caught that glimpse. He didn’t over-penetrate, he guarded the ball and controlled where the defense would be when he tossed the lob.
    Someone show show El that tape and ask him to figure out how Siva saw Harrell, how quickly did he decide what would happen, and how did he control the defender.
    Right now Ellis reminds me of the young Russ Smith, if he becomes Peyton Siva the rest of the team can grow into that stabilizing force.

  4. This is feel good writing. Instead of sugar coating, get to the point. When I see games these players perform, there is talent. They have bounce. There are glimpse of superb athleticism from these players. Some are showing more bounce than Michael Jordan was at NC.
    Each coach has its uniqueness. Patino induced franatic pace of panicking the opponents to turnovers, tiring them out. Bobby Knight was chess match of numerous picks to get the open Man to shoot. Calvin Sampson at Houston, MK at Duke, Dean Smith, Boeheim, VA all have unique styles that present match up disadvantages.
    Louisville’s Crum, Petino, Mack had their distinct ways of play. Current team does not have any plan. This is coaching issue without a doubt in my mind. Everyone on that team is more satisfied with jump shot rather than playing power foward/center dominance in the middle. There is no exploitation. All wants to be 3 point jump shot artist. These players have the talent of Houston’s phi jammy. They all can play above the rim. But they settle for jump shot, or dribble drive.
    Calipari is this way with super athletes, and can’t win tournament time. Payne seems to follow this path. Except he can’t win games. They have great player coaches. DManning was unbelievable player, same goes NSmith. KPayne was deadly outside shooter in practice (game time was different). The need better game management with purpose. They lack this. Whenever they are ahead, they ply sloppy like pickup games.

  5. First of all, with all due respect, this article is terrible. Sure, this team needs some guards but we have way more talent than our current 2-18 record. That’s all coaching. Some of our loses like to a bad Bellarmine team all go3s hack to coaching. Payne comes from Cal’s coaching tree which is God awful. I knewthat he wasn’t a great X 0s guy when he was hired but thought he would be a big time recruiter. Well, today he inked a JUCO kid not even in top 100 juco recruits. If the AD can’t see this and it’s going to take 3 years to see something so blatantly obvious then maybe he needs to go as well. I haven’t watched a game since The UK game, not even on my radar anymore. I’ve had season tickets for 10 years and I can’t give them away. All these people saying, ahhh we need to give Kenny a Chance, BS absolute freakn BS. I could have gotten 2 wins out of this team. People who say we owe him, we’ll he’s basically stolen millions from the athletic department by the time we buy this bums contract. Cry me a freakn river!! Fire him!

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