Kenny Payne is in his fifth season with John Calipari and Kentucky men’s basketball as an assistant coach and first as associate head coach after spending six seasons as an assistant at Oregon.
Payne’s work with forward Josh Harrellson in 2010-11 was one of the biggest reasons behind Kentucky’s historic run. In addition to Harrellson’s conditioning program, Payne helped Harrellson develop an interior game that led to a significant increase in playing time. Harrellson’s transformation was widely regarded as one of the national stories of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
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
In 2011-12, he helped mold a national championship front court, turning Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Jones into future NBA lottery picks. This past season, in 2013-14, he helped mold one of the nation’s most formidable front courts with the likes of Julius Randle, Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress and Marcus Lee.
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 John Calipari’s 2011, 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, the school’s third, fourth and fifth consecutive top-ranked classes.
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 travelled 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, Miss., 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’s of science is sport administration from Louisville in 2003. He and his wife, Michelle, have two children, Alexis and Alexander.