Kenny Payne, a veteran college and NBA coach and former Cardinal Basketball player, has been named the new head men’s basketball coach at the University of Louisville, Interim Director of Athletics Josh Heird announced today.
Payne’s six-year contract with the Cardinals extends through the 2027-28 season. The University of Louisville Athletic Association Board of Directors approved the terms of his contract this morning.
“As I stated when we began this process in early February, the University of Louisville is a destination job and the strength of our candidate pool proved this out,” Heird said. “After a thorough national search during which we sat down with a number of expectational coaches, it was clear that Kenny Payne was what we need. His basketball knowledge, his passion for his student-athletes, his vision for our program and his understanding of what Louisville Basketball means to our city and to our institution, are evident. I am thrilled to welcome Kenny and Michelle, and their children, Alexis and Zan, to the University of Louisville.”
Payne has 17 years of coaching experience, most recently serving as an assistant coach with the NBA’s New York Knicks after 15 years as a college assistant or associate head coach with both the University of Oregon and the University of Kentucky.
He will be just the sixth head coach to guide the Cardinals in the last 48 years, following Denny Crum (1971-2001), Rick Pitino (2001-17), David Padgett (2017-18, interim), Chris Mack (2018-22) and Mike Pegues (2021-22, interim). Payne is the 23rd head coach in Louisville’s 108-year history and the ninth in the past 77 years (fourth since 1971, excluding interim coaches).
“I want to thank President (Lori) Gonzalez and Josh Heird for this incredible opportunity to return to a place that means so much to me to lead our storied basketball program,” Payne said. “While there are challenges, I see opportunities, and if we are united and aligned, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. Our fans and community deserve a championship basketball program fueled by exceptional and high-character student-athletes, and it is my responsibility to deliver on that vision. I cannot wait to get started.”
The Knicks posted a 41-31 record in 2020-21, finishing fourth in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and are currently 29-40 this season. While at Oregon and Kentucky, Payne was part of four Final Four teams, 10 NCAA Tournaments and won six conference titles. Payne was honored in the A STEP UP Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame Class of 2020 for his track record of success and contributions to the game, as well as his high character, integrity and respect among colleagues. He has been nationally recognized for his player development, helping dozens of players achieve their dreams of playing in the NBA.
As a student-athlete at UofL, Payne scored 1,083 points in his career (1985-86), connecting on 40.1% of his career three-point attempts (85-of-212, fourth-highest in UofL history). He was a member of Louisville’s 1986 NCAA Championship team as a freshman and throughout his collegiate career, Louisville participated in three NCAA Sweet Sixteens, won three Metro Conference championships and three Metro tournament titles. As a senior playing under Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum, Payne averaged 14.5 points and 5.7 rebounds and was named to the All-Metro Conference Second Team.
Payne was selected in the first round of the 1989 NBA Draft as the 19th overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers, where he played four seasons (1989-93). He continued to play professional basketball abroad and in the Continental Basketball Association until 2000, with stops at the CBA Tri-Cities (Washington) and with teams in Italy, Japan, Brazil, the Philippines, Cypress, China, Argentina and Australia.
Payne earned a Bachelor of Science degree in sport administration from the University of Louisville in 2003.
He and his wife, Michelle, have two children: Alexis and Alexander (Zan), who currently plays on the Kentucky men’s basketball team.
Kenny Payne Coaching Career
2022, Head Coach, University of Louisville
2020-22, Assistant coach, New York Knicks
2014-20, Associate Head Coach, University of Kentucky
2010-14, Assistant Coach, University of Kentucky
2004-09, Assistant Coach, University of Oregon