By Larry Vaught
Kentucky basketball lost a significant part of the program last week when associate coach Kenny Payne, who had been at UK since 2010, left to join the staff of the New York Knicks.
“It’s tough to lose a person like KP and all he brings to the table not only for players but for parents (of the players) and the university. But you also have a Hall of Fame coach in Cal running the ship. So I am happy for KP but sad for BBN,” Paul Washington, father of former UK player PJ Washington, said.
Paul Washington is a former college basketball player and head coach of an elite high school program. His son PJ was a two-year standout at UK and a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA draft who has had a fabulous rookie season with Charlotte. He said Payne was a good recruiter, developed players well and related well with players and their parents.
“He does all that well and does if from a selfless standpoint,” Paul Washington said. “He is a giver and wants what is best not only for UK but for the families and kids. He’s a good person to have to drive Calipari’s agenda. Coach Cal sets the table and coach KP does a good job translating that message.
“You have a lot of personalities going in and out that door every year. You don’t have a lot of junior and senior leadership. He communicates so well with everybody, so I guess really the best thing about him is his ability to relate to everybody. That’s what separates him from others and what will be the hardest to replace I think.”
Paul Washington says Payne will have instant credibility in the NBA because of a “ton of players he’s developed and people he got ready” to play in the league. Washington says he knows NBA teams annually call Payne to get feedback on UK players before the draft because they respect his knowledge.
“I don’t know if relating to parents will help in the NBA because it is a job for players now. But getting guys to want to play and compete and look at it as more than just a job is what he brings to the table. He just has a knack for getting guys to compete,” Paul Washington said.