The Knicks confirmed Kenny Payne as the first addition to Tom Thibodeau coach’s new staff, waiting for John Calipari long-right man and bringing him from Kentucky to the Garden.
“I am thrilled that Kenny has joined my staff as an assistant coach. He has an extraordinary ability to build relationships with players and improve their skills,” Thibodeau said in a statement. “He knows what it takes to win and has learned from one of the best coaches he has at John Calipari. Kenny will be a tremendous addition to our organization.”
Payne had spent the past decade working under – and winning with – Calipari, was promoted to assistant coach in 2014 and assisted the Wildcats in the first 38-0 season in college basketball history just a year later.
But the 53-year-old also has long-standing relationships with not only Knicks president Leon Rose, but also senior vice president William Wesley.
Rose had been Calipari’s agent at CAA, where Wesley also worked. And Payne’s connections to “Wes Wes Wes” span decades, throughout his days playing for Louisville.
“Now I take the next step in my basketball journey and fulfill my dream of coaching in the NBA,” Payne said in a statement. “I’m beyond grateful and enthusiastic for the opportunity to work for such a prestigious organization as the New York Knicks under the leadership of Leon Rose, Scott Perry, William Wesley and Tom Thibodeau, for whom I have such great admiration and respect.
“This decision was not easy for me. I have a great job in Kentucky, and thinking about leaving has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I have also been offered a tremendous opportunity with the New York Knicks and a chance to help restore what I believe should be the core organization in the NBA. “
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During his time in Kentucky, Payne has helped nine great men become lotteries, including top general elections Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns.
That Knicks coach Julius Randle and Kevin Knox and will reunite with them in the Garden. Calipari withdrew from his former associate coach, and said Payne would be crucial in developing all of the Knicks and a fortune for Thibodeau staff.
“This is a bitter day for us in Kentucky,” Calipari said. “Kenny has been an extremely important part of our success here. His relationship with our players is second to none. He trains them and challenges them as hard as anyone, but they respect him, they listen to him and they learn from him because they know he cares.As a basketball coach and teacher, he could run any program in the country.Simply, he is as good as they get.
“I’m disappointed that Kenny did not get that chance, but this is one of those opportunities that Kenny had to look at, and I fully support his decision to join Tom Thibodeau ‘s staff. Kenny’ s approach to his players , his knowledge and experience in the game, and his work ethic will serve him well on a professional level.I have high expectations for him in the NBA.For Julius Randle and Kevin Knox, it will be immediate, “But as other players get to know and trust him, they will know he is for one thing: their improvement and their success. I have no doubt that Kenny will be a great asset to coach Thibodeau’s staff.”