Kenny Payne’s talents received some well-deserved recognition over the weekend. Last night, Payne was inducted into the A STEP UP Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame.
The former Kentucky associate head coach is one of eight members in the 2020 class, along with Bill Brock (Baylor), Al Brown (Duke), Bill Guthridge (North Carolina), Karl Hobbs (Rutgers), Jolette Law (South Carolina), Tommy Lloyd (Gonzaga) and Bob Starkey (Texas A&M). He and his fellow inductees were honored during a virtual ceremony hosted by ESPN’s Holly Rowe. John Calipari Zoom’d in to praise his former staff member, who is now killing it with the New York Knicks.
“Congratulations to my brother, Kenny Payne,” Calipari said. “Hall of Fame. A STEP UP assistant coach. And the names you’re in with, think about that, Kenny. The jobs you did here for these young people, for me and my family. You’ve always been in the Hall of Fame in my mind, and now they made it official. One of the best ever at what you do and you know what? You’ll be the same as a head coach.”
“First of all, let me thank A STEP UP Hall of Fame for this prestigious honor,” Payne said. “It says a lot about who I am and what it means to me because of all the people that have been honored before me but also I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the coaches — John Calipari, Ernie Kent, Tom Thibodeau — that I’ve worked for being an assistant coach, but also the players. More than anything, they’re the reason I’m sitting here today with this honor. Being in their lives has been an honor to me.”
The A STEP UP Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame Committee received recommendations from individuals, coaches, the media and other professionals across the nation. Voting was based on the candidates track record of success, outstanding and significant contributions to the game as well as high character, integrity and respect among colleagues.
Prior to taking the job with the Knicks, Payne was at Kentucky for 10 seasons, helping the Cats to 295 wins, the 2012 national championship, four Final Four appearances, eight NCAA Tournament berths, five Southeastern Conference regular-season championships, five SEC Tournament titles and 33 NBA Draft picks. He has been nationally recognized for his work with Kentucky’s big men — and rightfully so — but he’s played an instrumental role in UK’s success with players of all different positions. Most notably, Payne’s development with Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns helped the Kentucky freshmen go No. 1 overall in their respective drafts with each team advancing to the Final Four.