By LARRY VAUGHT
Rivals.com basketball writer Krysten Peek totally agrees with University of Kentucky fans that the loss of associate coach Kenny Payne to the New York Knicks is a “huge loss” for the Wildcats.
“Even with the highly rated recruits that Kentucky didn’t land those players all really respected Kenny and many still have relationships with him now,” she said.
Peek remembers when current Atlanta Hawk guard Trae Young was at a Kentucky-Georgia game. Young, an Oklahoma native, picked Oklahoma over Kentucky for his college choice.
“Trae walked back to the locker room and Cal yelled for Kenny Payne and I have never seen Trae so happy,” Peek said. “Kenny is super genuine. A lot of players and parents really trusted him.
“Look at all the other engagements and responsibilities that Cal has. But even if Cal was out, parents trusted him. I remember PJ Washington’s dad telling me he knew even if Cal was gone, his son was in good hands with Kenny.”
Obviously, parent trust is not that big a deal in the NBA where players of all ages play and it is a full-time job. So I wondered how Payne’s relationship skills would translate to the NBA.
“It is very different in the NBA but the thing is Kenny was at Kentucky and players already hold him in high regard and respect him,” she said. “Plus as the NBA gets younger and younger this was a brilliant hire by the Knicks surprisingly because when young players come into the league, Kenny is the perfect guy to coach and mentor them.”