New York Knicks assistant Kenny Payne is a slight favorite to be the next Louisville head coach (New York Knicks photo).

Payne favorite for UofL job but without Nike support

The top three possibilities for the next UofL coach are individuals with strong Louisville ties, according to, a Las Vegas betting site.

Their top choice is Kenny Payne, a player on Louisville’s 1986 championship team and a former University of Kentucky assistant. The odds are listed at +400. Behind him are Bellarmine’s Scott Davenport and Seton Hall’s Kevin Willard, both listed at +500 odds.  Davenport and Willard were both assistants to former UofL Coach Rick Pitino.

Payne appears to be the fan favorite, as well, with numerous big-time boosters.  Jonathan Blue, a former UofL Foundation board member, was on Payne’s bandwagon during the last coaching search which resulted in the hiring of Chris Mack.

If Payne were to be hired, it would quiet long-time critics like Jerry Eaves and Butch Beard who have made hiring a Black coach their only priority. As former UofL players, they get far more than their share of attention from the local media, especially the self-appointed Courier-Journal guardian of social justice issues.

At any rate, the primary concern with this Observer (me) is Payne’s long-time association with a UK program that has long had “creative” recruiting practices and its ongoing relationship with Nike shoes. Apparently Nike is so powerful that the Justice Department failed to thoroughly investigate Nike relationships during the FBI’s examination of college basketball recruiting.

UK may get away with it but Louisville will not, not without any Nike ties. Payne or no Payne.

It is that same relationship between Nike and other college programs (including Oregon) that could prevent Payne from being a successful recruiter at Louisville.  Despite the emergence of Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) to prominence, Nike is not going away.

The worst case scenario for UofL would be Payne using Louisville as a hedge for another job.

Sportsline odds:

  • Kenny Payne, New York Knicks +400
  • Scott Davenport, Bellarmine +500
  • Kevin Willard, Seton Hall +500
  • Steve Forbes, Wake Forest +600
  • Wes Miller, Cincinnati +700
  • Mark Pope, Brigham Young +900
  • Chris Holtmann, Ohio State +1000
  • Ed Cooley, Providence +1100
  • Nate Oats, Alabama +1200
  • Eric Musselman, Arkansas +1300
  • Andy Enfield, Southern California +1500
  • Mick Cronin, UCLA +1500
  • Matt McMahonm, Murray State  +2000
  • Scott Drew, Baylor +2500
  • Bruce Pearl, Auburn +2500
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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

3 thoughts on “Payne favorite for UofL job but without Nike support

  • March 11, 2022 at 8:46 am

    A few points that hav e come to mind.
    1) Kenny Payne is a sentimental choice. Loved him as a player. Was proud when the U of L allowed him to return and get his degree so he could be hired by U of K. But, if he is interested I need to start hearing it from him. KP, tell us you want the job and tell us your plan.
    2) Scotty Davenport was at U of L when I was there, so I know he is nearing retirement age, maybe he is our best choice for starting the next phase. He, like me, is old enough to remember the Peck Hickman years, was around the program during the Denny Crum tenure, worked for Rick Pitino. So, if you want to bring the various generations together, who better. Plus, he is a successful Coach with a National Championship to his credit. His playing style is very interesting, if a player is on the floor they are active and involved. There is more positives to add, later, perhaps.
    3) Maybe we have the man for this time already. Mike Pegues showed an ability to lead. He insisted on discipline. Demonstrated the ability to adjust to fit his personnel. Was not afraid to try new playing styles. Never quit. And, with the uncertainty we are still dealing with, giving a promising young man familiar with the program the reins might be at worst a sound stop gap measure. The University might look back and years from now see that we hired a man who developed into our next great Coach.

    • March 11, 2022 at 9:55 am

      Right on as usual, Rick, on all counts. The fact that Kenny Payne is keeping his name in the mix indicates to me that he is interested in the job. Scott Davenport and Mike Pegues has certainly earned consideration for this important job.

  • March 18, 2022 at 8:52 am

    Congratulations to Kenny Payne on becoming the Men’s Basketball Coach. L’s up!

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