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Louisville names former UofL player Kenny Payne as men's basketball head coach

Payne is a former UofL player and was a freshman reserve on the Cardinals' 1986 national championship squad under legendary Louisville coach Denny Crum.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It's official! Kenny Payne will be the next head coach of the University of Louisville's men's basketball program.

The University of Louisville Athletic Association met Friday morning to discuss his appointment and the school made the announcement following the meeting at the KFC Yum! Center, the Cardinals' home arena.

According to a press release from UofL Athletics, Payne's contract will be for six years, through the 2027-28 season. 

“While there are challenges, I see opportunities, and if we are united and aligned, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish," Payne said. "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.”

Payne was a freshman reserve on the Cardinals' 1986 national championship squad under legendary Louisville coach Denny Crum. He graduated from the university in 2003.

When he arrived in Louisville Thursday, Payne said returning to Kentucky was a "dream come true." Two Louisville legends - Denny Crum and Wade Houston - joined Josh Heird, UofL's interim Athletic Director, on the tarmac to greet Payne upon his arrival.

Payne had been mentioned as Louisville's top target from the moment Chris Mack was out as head coach earlier this year. He is praised not only as an excellent recruiter for luring some of the Wildcats' top talent during his time at the University of Kentucky but Payne is also credited with developing many of their star post players.

Payne said during Friday's press conference that at the end of the day he needs the community and the university's support even when things aren't good. He said so far, he's received support nationwide.

"It's unbelievable to come back and have a whole state, I don't think you understand," he said. "The whole state embraced this."

He said for weeks people kept calling him saying: "You have to do this Kenny."

Payne said he knows he won't have all the answers all the time.

"I can't do this job by myself," he said. "I can't, I wish I could, I wish I could stand up here and tell you I have all the answers, but I know this is a university built on success, the foundation is good."

Watch Payne's full remarks below:

Payne said that support is more than just being there when times are good.

"Support is really when you're doing bad," he said. "I need you and we need each other and we need to do the right thing so kids can come through this program and achieve their greatness."

The Cardinals have been under the direction of interim coach Mike Pegues since January 2022. UofL finished the 2021-22 season 13-19 after a loss to Virginia in the ACC Tournament.

Payne will be the sixth coach to lead the Cardinals in the last 48 years, according to the university. 


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