Expectations for Payne’s success extends beyond basketball

“Someone that looks like them is going to lead the program and lead the community,” former UofL and NBA star Jerry Eaves said. “Coach Payne’s got a huge respon
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 4:08 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kenny Payne, University of Louisville’s expected new men’s basketball coach, is returning to a university and a city in transition.

UofL trying to emerge from years of internal turmoil. Louisville itself is still in the grips of a racial reckoning.

“What we are experiencing now is assessing ourselves to see if we are truly living up to principles of equity and fairness,” Simmons College president Dr. Kevin Cosby said. “We once picked cotton balls, and then we dribbled basketballs. But we were never in positions of leadership and decision making. And so to have Kenny Payne as a visible person in leadership, I think it’s phenomenal.”

“The Racial and Gender Report Card,” from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, revealed Black coaches held just 24.3 percent of Division I head coaching jobs in the 2020-21 season.

That was less than half the percentage of Black players.

“Someone that looks like them is going to lead the program and lead the community,” former UofL and NBA star Jerry Eaves said. “Coach Payne’s got a huge responsibility.”

In 2017, Eaves sent a letter questioning then-UofL Athletic Director Tom Jurich about what Eaves called the department’s “staggering under-representation of gifted and talented African Americans.”

He also asked the question, “Does the University of Louisville treat minorities differently...?”

Eaves approved of the hiring of Payne.

“I mean the job right now is probably as bad as it has ever been; waiting for the NCAA sanctions to come,” Eaves said. “I’m just glad that the University thought about looking at a person of color, giving them an opportunity.”

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WAVE — Louisville and Southern Indiana's NBC affiliate. Follow us on Twitter & Instagram @wave3news.(WAVE)

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