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Larry Vaught Weekly: Coach Cal Praises Kenny Payne

Photo: Vicky Graff

John Calipari says assistant Kenny Payne devotes his life to UK players. He could well be at Marshall County in February to watch UK signees P.J. Washington and Shai Alexander play.

By: Larry Vaught

Kentucky’s assistant coaches are basically kept out of the spotlight and away from the media by coach John Calipari. However, Calipari is never shy about praising veteran assistant coach Kenny Payne.

“You come to work and sometimes I come in here at night, and I’m in here at 10, 10:30 p.m. and I look out the window and he’s out there working out somebody who wanted some extra work. I mean, his life (is) these kids. That’s his value,” Calipari said.

The UK coach says Payne has a “great basketball mind” but that he also devotes enormous time to the players.

“His life is these kids. You can’t fake that. In this profession I’m in, if you’re 9-5 you’ll have no relationship with these players. You get here at 8, 7 a.m. when no one’s here and then by 5 p.m. the door hits you on the butt, you run home and ‘I was here all day,’ no, doesn’t work,” Calipari said. “This thing is about the relationships you have with those players.”

Calipari says as head coach, his relationship is different with he players than the one Payne has. He says Payne relates well to recruits and comes across as a person parents can trust their sons with at UK.

“He’s harder on our kids than I am. I don’t think there’s any question if you sat in a practice and watched, he’s harder on our guys than I am. And I love it, by the way because I can go over and say, ‘He’s really tough on you,’” Calipari said.

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