Kenny Payne may be leaving Kentucky’s staff, but John Calipari isn’t done supporting his guy. In fact, Coach Cal hopes the New York Knicks compete for and win an NBA Championship. If not just for newly-announced assistant coach Kenny Payne, but also for his former Wildcats Julius Randle and Kevin Knox. He expects the combination of those two young players and Payne’s demonstrated talents with some of the league’s best big men to create some impressive results in Manhattan.
“I know what’s going to happen with Julius and Kevin Knox, I’ll tell you right now. I think you’ll see a change for the better,” Calipari told reporters on a Zoom call Wednesday. “Obviously Julius has done well, but I’m saying that next step up. And Kevin, I told you guys what was going to happen. It was going to take him year or two to get going because of his age; he’s so young.”
Coach Cal also has lofty expectations about the Knicks’ future as a team, even though the organization hasn’t won a championship since 1973, hasn’t been in the NBA Finals since 1999 and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013.
“I’m friends with [head coach Tom Thibodeau]. He’s a terrific coach. Obviously you all know about my relationship with [President Leon Rose], my relationship with [William Wesley, also known as World Wide Wes],” Calipari said. “I want the Knicks to win. I want the Knicks to compete for a championship and I want the Knicks to win a championship.”
Still, he’s mostly just thinking about his former assistant coach.
“My overriding concern is in Kenny Payne. That’s like my brother. And Thibs was on point [with the hire]…He knew why he wanted him on his staff with him.”
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) August 11, 2020
Who did the Knicks get when they convinced Payne to leave his position as one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in collegiate basketball? Calipari echoed the same ideas we’ve heard about KP over the years – it’s all about player development.
“They’re getting a great human being that cares about people, that puts himself behind the people around him, that is a servant leader in every way he can be,” Calipari said. “As a basketball coach, he’s got a great mind… His strength is the relationships he builds through player development — and it’s both mental and physical — but that’s his strength.”
“He can do it in a way where he can challenge and push and make them uncomfortable, yet they know he cares,” Coach Cal continued. “They want to hang around the office; they want to talk to him aside from basketball.”
Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.