The New York Knicks have hired Kenny Payne as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau’s 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,” said Tom Thibodeau, head coach, New York Knicks. “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.”
“I want to thank John Calipari, Eli Capilouto (President, University of Kentucky), Mitch Barnhart (Athletics 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,” said Kenny Payne, assistant coach, New York Knicks. “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.”
Per the New York Post, “the 53-year-old also has longstanding relationships with not only Knicks president Leon Rose, but senior vice president William Wesley. Rose had been Calipari’s agent at CAA, where Wesley also worked. And Payne’s ties with “World Wide Wes” stretch back decades, all the way to his days playing for Louisville.”
Payne, 53, has extensive college coaching experience having served as an assistant coach since 2004 with Oregon and Kentucky. He recently completed his 10th season as assistant coach at the University of Kentucky (2010-20) on coach John Calipari’s staff. In May 2014, Payne was promoted to associate head coach of the Wildcats. Payne’s lasting impact on Kentucky’s basketball history includes advancing to the Final Four four times, including winning the 2012 National Championship. In 2015, Payne helped lead the Wildcats to the first 38-0 record in college basketball history. Payne also played a major role in the recruiting and development of players at Kentucky. In each of his 10 years in Lexington, he was instrumental in securing a top-three recruiting class, six of which were No. 1 in the country. The 2013 class consisted of a record six McDonald’s All Americans and the 2017 class was rated as the best ever by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. Since Payne’s arrival, Kentucky has had a player selected in the NBA Draft lottery and had multiple players picked in the first round in every year of his service.
Prior to Kentucky, Payne served as an assistant coach with the University of Oregon for five seasons (2004-09). During his time in Eugene, the Ducks qualified for two NCAA Tournaments (2007-08) including an appearance in the Elite Eight in 2007. In the 2006-07 season, he also helped lead Oregon to a Pacific-10 Tournament title.
As a player, the Laurel, MS-native was originally selected 19th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1989 NBA Draft. Over four seasons (1989-93), Payne held career averages of 3.5 points and 1.2 rebounds over 8.1 minutes in 144 games (13 starts). After his time in the NBA, Payne played one season (1993-94) in the Continental Basketball Association. He averaged 16.3 points and 6.3 rebounds over 55 games for the Tri-City Chinook. He spent time playing professionally overseas in Italy, Japan, Brazil, the Philippines, Cyprus, China, Argentina and Australia. A four-year player at the University of Louisville (1985-89), he was a member of the 1986 NCAA national championship team.