Kentucky has the No. 1 assistant coach in the Southeastern Conference, and he goes by the name of Kenny Payne.
In a ranking of the top assistants in the SEC, Jeff Goodman listed John Calipari’s right-hand man as the best.
In the ranking, Goodman polled at least 20 coaches (primarily assistants) and asked for them to name the top assistants in their respective league, with Payne coming in at No. 1.
Kenny Payne, Kentucky | The Mississippi native played at Louisville from 1985-89 and then spent more than a decade playing professionally in 10 different leagues. Payne was an assistant at Oregon from 2004-09, then joined John Calipari’s Kentucky staff in 2010.
Goodman received quotes from Calipari, along with another assistant coach in the SEC, with both singing Payne’s praises.
“Coaches care about players or they wouldn’t be in the profession, but few coaches like Kenny will put their own career behind the players like Kenny does,” Calipari said of Payne. “In recruiting, if we need to wait on a kid, even if it hurts him, he’ll wait. Some of the best players we’ve signed are because Kenny convinced me to wait and had a great relationship with those players. His reputation as a recruiter was at stake, but he thought it was the right thing to do for the kid.
“As a basketball coach and a teacher, he could run any program in the country, and I’m disappointed he hasn’t had that opportunity already. He does his job with great integrity and great loyalty to the program and the players. His relationship with our players is second to none. He coaches them as hard as anyone, but they respect him, they listen to him and they learn from him because they know he cares. Simply, he’s as good as they get.”
“Obviously Kenny is known as a great recruiter, but many people don’t see how he holds guys accountable and pushes buttons to get the best out of them,” the anonymous SEC assistant said of Payne. “Kenny is super connected and is at the forefront of what Kentucky is getting done on the recruiting trail. I think it’s truly amazing! He’s got a great way about him.”
Here was the entire list of assistants:
- Kenny Payne (Kentucky)
- Darris Nichols (Florida)
- Desmond Oliver (Tennessee)
- Michael Schwartz (Tennessee)
- Bill Armstrong (LSU)
Safe to say we all agree with KP’s spot on the list.