LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The associate head coach for John Calipari at the University of Kentucky is going to the NBA.
The New York Knicks announced this morning they have hired Kenny Payne as an assistant coach on new coach Tom Thibodeau’s staff.
“First of all, I want to thank Dr. Eli Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart and Coach Cal for the unbelievable opportunity I’ve had at Kentucky for the last 10 years,” Payne said in a statement posted on UKAthletics.com. “I’ve been blessed to not only coach at the greatest program in college basketball but to be in a position to help young men grow and develop and to play a part in their families’ lives. They’ve been 10 of the most rewarding years of my life, and I’ll cherish my time in Lexington for the rest of my career.
"This decision wasn't easy for me. I have a great job at Kentucky, and to think about leaving has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I have also been offered an incredible opportunity with the New York Knicks and a chance to help restore what I believe should be the premier organization in the NBA.
“Big Blue Nation, thank you for embracing me and treating me and my family with respect. You are truly the best fans in college basketball and a major ingredient to what makes UK special. I am a firm believer in Coach Cal, and any player who is talented and has the character and the mental toughness to chase his dreams should want to play for my mentor and coach.”
Payne, 53, was a member of the University of Louisville’s 1986 national championship team. Professionally, Payne played four season with the Philadelphia 76ers after being drafted in the first round of the 1989 NBA draft.
The native of Laurel, Miss. leaves Kentucky after spending the past 10 years on the Wildcats coaching staff.
UK says a national search for Payne’s replacement will begin immediately.