Source: YouTube


After two seasons, the University of Louisville is parting ways with Kenny Payne as head coach of the men’s basketball team after the Cards finished in an overall 12-52 record.

“Kenny has given a great deal to this university over a span of nearly 40 years, and he will always be a valued member of our Louisville family,” Director of Athletics Josh Heird said. “When we brought Kenny home in 2022, no one had a stronger belief than me in his potential success, but it’s become clear that a change is needed to help this program achieve what is expected and attainable. While it is always difficult to make a coaching transition, this is the right one for our program. On behalf of myself and everyone involved with our men’s basketball program, I want to thank Kenny for his dedication to UofL. I wish him and his family the very best in their future.”

The announcement comes after the Cards lost in the opening round of the ACC Tournament to NC State 94-85 on Tuesday, ending the season with an 8-24 record and an eight-game losing streak. Four of those were home games.

“I think when you lose hope – at least, for me, if I ever lose hope in this business, I probably don’t want to be in this business,” Heird said about the decision to move on. “Literally, last night I caught myself getting really frustrated when there were a few open 3s by the opposing team, because I was still cheering for our basketball team. So, it wasn’t ‘hey, this was the date,’ it was just, I kept looking for hope – is there something here? And there were a couple of glimpses of that. We had the Miami game, the Florida State game and it’s like, ‘hey can this be sustained, can we start to see some progression here?’ And then you look back and you reflect, ‘hey I just didn’t see enough of that,’ and so we made the decision we made.”

Payne was hired in March 2022 after signing a six-year contract hoping to lead the basketball program but ended up finishing 4-28 in his first season. Attendance in the KFC Yum! Center has continued to drop during his tenure and the calls for his job from the fan base on social media and the radio have been loud.

“I think the thing that really stood out to me initially, relative to Kenny, was his ability to interact and connect with players and student-athletes. It was clear he had a proven track of that. His ability to recruit – he has a proven track record of that. His connection to the university – I thought that was going to be a benefit,” Heird said about the qualities that led to the Payne hire. “And then from there, you look at some areas that you missed on, and they were unknowns for a first-time head coach. Do they have the ability to put a staff together and understand your strengths and weaknesses? Can you put a staff around you that complements your strengths and weaknesses?

“I’ve used the term organizational leadership at times, and I think that’s a skill that you don’t just wake up and have. I’m a first-time athletic director, and I struggle with it all the time. How do we manage a staff and put staff into appropriate decisions to be successful? How do we hold people accountable? How do we set expectations? All those things,” he added. “I think anybody who has led an organization or group of people understands that it’s the hardest thing. I say it all the time – the hardest thing about being a manager is managing people. Kenny had never really been given that opportunity to manage a larger group of people, and I think there was times that it was difficult.”

After Tuesday’s game, Payne said he believes he needs more than two years to turn things around.

“When I walked into the program as the new head coach, I talked about how I needed everybody on the same page,” he said during the post-game conference. “We sort of forgot that. I talked about how I’m not going to let you blame me. I’m not standing up here by myself. I need all of Louisville with me. We sort of forgot that. I talked about how it’s going to take time, and I’m going to watch and see who jumped on and off the Titanic. We sort of forgot that. We talked about I gave a specific time. I said three or four years. And I’m good with it. That’s what I believed at that time, and that’s what I still believe it takes to fix this program.”

If he is let go, the University of Louisville will owe him a contract buyout of around $8 million. If the Cards wait until April 1, Payne’s buyout drops from $8 million to $6 million.

“I’ve been very committed to making sure that Kenny was going to have two full years. So, I did not have any contact with his representation until after the end of the game last night,” Heird said about that buyout. “I initiated those conversations last night and Kenny and I had a conversation once he got back to Louisville and we will continue to work through those contract details. I don’t have any more information for you than that right now.”

A national search for his replacement begins immediately.

More about: