Kenny Payne will enter his seventh year with John Calipari and the Kentucky men’s basketball program in 2015-16. He was promoted to associate head coach in May of 2014 after serving his first four seasons as an assistant coach. Prior to his arrival at UK he served as an assistant at Oregon for six seasons.
Payne’s work with Kentucky’s big men has played an instrumental role in UK’s NBA Draft success. Payne’s development with Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns helped the Kentucky freshmen go No. 1 overall in their respective drafts.
Payne was also a key in the development of Julius Randle, who was taken seventh overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, Nerlens Noel, who was drafted sixth overall in 2013, and Josh Harrellson who became a second-round draft pick following a breakout senior campaign in 2011.
Nationally recognized as one of the game’s top recruiters, Payne’s ability to recruit has continued to flourish at Kentucky. He played a key part in Calipari’s last six recruiting classes. The 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2016 classes all ranked No. 1 in the country, according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. UK’s 2014 class had four McDonald’s All-Americans and was rated No. 2 overall. The 2013 class consisted of a record six McDonald’s All-Americans and was heralded as one of the best classes ever assembled by many pundits.
1985-89: Louisville, player
1989-92: Philadelphia 76ers, player
2005-10: Oregon, assistant coach
2011-2014: Kentucky, assistant coach
2014-present: Kentucky, associate head coach
Payne hasn’t only helped recruit players to Kentucky though, he’s also helped develop them into stars. In five of the six years since Payne arrived at UK, the Cats have had a post player chosen in the top 10 of the NBA Draft. In all six at least one has gone in the first round.
Kentucky has advanced to the Final Four in four of the six seasons in which Payne has been on staff, including in 2015, when, in his first year as an associate head coach, Payne helped guide the Wildcats to the first 38-0 record in college basketball history.
Payne’s first season as part of the Kentucky staff came during the 2010-11 season as the Wildcats advanced to the Final Four, the first in the Calipari era.
Kentucky then captured the national championship during Payne’s second season and Davis was the recipient of numerous national player of the year accolades.
Payne was instrumental in helping lead UK back to the national title game in 2014 behind the play of Randle, an All-American forward who broke freshman records in rebounding, double-doubles and free throws made.
During his tenure at Oregon, Payne helped the Ducks burst onto the national scene with two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2007 and 2008. Oregon also claimed one Pacific-10 Tournament title and three Ducks were selected in the first and second rounds of the NBA Draft under Payne.
During the 2006-07 season, the Ducks recorded an 11-7 Pac-10 record and posted an undefeated mark in non-conference regular-season games, finishing with a 29-8 overall record. That season, Oregon captured the Pac-10 Tournament, and followed the tournament run with an impressive performance at the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks earned a No. 3 seed in the tournament and advanced to the Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual champions Florida.
The Ducks followed their Elite Eight run with another appearance in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Payne and the Oregon coaching staff then reigned in a top-20 recruiting class for the 2008 season with six highly touted recruits.
Prior to coaching, Payne traveled the globe playing basketball for 10 different professional leagues. In 1989, Payne was chosen in the first round and 19th overall in the NBA Draft, playing four years for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Payne competed in the Continental Basketball Association (Tri-Cities, Wash.) and overseas in Italy, Japan, Brazil, the Philippines, Cypress, China and Argentina. He finished his professional career in 2000 following a season with Team Taipans of Cairns in Australia.
A four-year letterwinner at Louisville from 1985-89, Payne joined the Cardinals from Northeast Jones High School in Laurel, Mississippi, where he was a Parade All-American and the state’s player of the year.
Payne helped lead Louisville to the 1986 NCAA national championship as a sophomore when he appeared in 34 games and averaged 3.6 points per game. As a senior, Payne averaged 14.5 points and 5.7 rebounds and was named second team All-Metro Conference.
By the end of his Louisville career, Payne registered 1,083 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range.
Payne earned a Bachelor of Science in sport administration from Louisville in 2003.
He and his wife, Michelle, have two children, Alexis and Alexander.