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Thursday morning Cardinal news and notes

We’ll always love you for ‘97, Lute.

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—The Louisville baseball team scored an 11-5 win over Bellarmine Wednesday afternoon on Elementary School Day at Jim Patterson Stadium. U of L now welcomes No. 1 Notre Dame to town for a three-game set this weekend.

— previews the Louisville women’s basketball team’s Friday night NCAA tournament first round game against Albany.

—Eric Crawford writes that in hiring Kenny Payne, Louisville is turning to its past to try and revive its heartbeat.

There may have been fewer than 5,000 fans in the KFC Yum! Center for the Cardinals’ last home game. The talent level has fallen, and so has the teamwork. The strut of the program that went to 4 Final Fours in 6 years under Denny Crum has never been quite duplicated. Those Cardinals jumped higher, ran faster, pressed harder and shot better than almost anyone else in the college game.

And in doing that they elevated an entire city. They changed its identity. They inspired it to want more and be more and do more. That’s the truth. The growth of this city coincided with the emergence of Crum’s basketball program.

Payne was a part of that. He and young Black players like him built the program. The modern university has been constructed on the foundation of their success and accomplishments. But as the university grew, their place in it seemed to diminish. They saw other universities support former players, advance their careers, offer opportunities, celebrate them. Wherever they turned – on ESPN, on the coaching sidelines, in business, they saw evidence of this. For many years, former Louisville players could walk into the team’s practice facility and see a graphic featuring NBA players who had played for then-coach Rick Pitino, but nothing featuring their accomplishments or professional careers.

They looked at Louisville’s sidelines and saw Walter McCarty or Wayne Turner, and that was great, but they didn’t see a Wiley Brown or Ellis Myles. It didn’t sit well. They’d voice concern and see nothing happen.

They worked, many of them, in this community, as teachers, coaches and elsewhere. But many felt like they’d passed from memory, even at the very university they had helped to build. It’s not a good feeling.

On Friday, that changes, at least a little bit. Kenny Payne, for the second time in his life, will sign with Louisville. He becomes the program’s first Black head coach, and that, as it would anywhere, brings even more pressure, more responsibility beyond just wins and losses.

—Both David Levitch (North Oldham) and Elisha Justice (Pikeville) led their teams to the quarterfinals of the state tournament on Wednesday. Justice’s Pikeville squad did so by upsetting North Laurel and future Kentucky Wildcat Reed Sheppard.

—Male High and Louisville commit Kaleb Glenn will begin their run in Lexington this morning at 11 a.m. against No. 5 Warren Central. The Bulldogs believed they were the favorites to win the state title in 2020 before the pandemic canceled the tournament. For the players who are still around from that team, this feels like a second chance.

—Wade Houston shares his thoughts on Louisville hiring Kenny Payne.

— recaps the performance of the Cardinal swimmers at day 1 of the 2022 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships.

—Notre Dame and Rutgers got the madness kicked off with a double overtime thriller in Dayton last night. The Fighting Irish ultimately prevailed via a last second bucket by by big man Paul Atkinson.

—Speaking of, it’s from 2016, but you still probably won’t read a better lede this month.

—The Three-Man-Weave crew makes its consensus NCAA tournament picks.

—NBA coaches and scouts share their thoughts (Insider) on this year’s NCAA tournament.

—If you’re looking to learn more about Kenny Payne and the type of coach Louisville is getting, this piece from a few years back by The Athletic’s Kyle Tucker is worth your time.

“KP is one of the best development coaches in the world,” Towns says. “KP is the horse beneath the jockey driving Kentucky basketball.”

During his nine seasons in Lexington, Payne has guided nine Kentucky big men to become NBA lottery picks, including No. 1 overall picks Towns and Anthony Davis.

“When I got to Kentucky, I couldn’t do a post move. I was very, very raw,” says Davis, who’s listed as “Baby Giraffe” in Payne’s phone. “I was like a baby giraffe that just came out of the womb — the way they walk, wobbling around on their skinny legs.”

Payne, who at 6-foot-8 still cuts an imposing figure, got busy building both Davis’ body and confidence in the paint, sharing basic principles and a go-to move: Create a wide base, hold your ground, secure the ball and dribble once, spin back into an unblockable right-handed jump hook.

“It became my thing, and it all came from him,” says Davis, a six-time all-star who’s now with the Lakers. “We would work it and work it. He’d push me around with these big pads and we’d drill it all day and all night until I got it right. KP is why I’m able to play so well in the paint now.”

“Kenny is the backbone,” adds Warriors center Willie Cauley-Stein. “He keeps that shit tight.”

—The Cardinal softball team rolled to a 15-0 win over Western Illinois on Wednesday. The Cards are now 16-8 on the season.

—Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels saw their 2021-22 season come to an end last night with a loss at Florida in the NIT. Pitino was still happy to have spent some time on the court named for perhaps his most famous protege.

—The Louisville lacrosse team ends its road trip with a tough contest at No. 8 Duke on Thursday. Here’s a preview.

—Sydney Curry has signed with Seven1 Sports & Entertainment Agency for his NIL representation.

—Four and-a-half years after the FBI’s probe into college basketball, it has officially spawned more movies than punishments handed out by the NCAA.

Also, I’m excited to see this. De Sousa’s story is wild.

—Former Cardinal Anthony Silkwood has had the interim tag removed and has been named the new full-time head baseball coach at Parkland College.

—A bill legalizing sports betting is one of several gambling-related bills advancing in the Kentucky legislature. Somehow, that’s still a hotly debated issue in this state.

—Nice to see Kenny Klein and Josh Heird get this done for Taquan. I know it’s something he’s been upset about for a while.

—Former Louisville men’s golf standout Adam Hadwin’s parking spot for this week’s Valspar Championship has a Cardinal feel.

—The city of Dayton has fully embraced the First Four and turned it from a punchline into something pretty cool.

—The ‘90s logos were so great.

—The NCAA’s treatment of Bellarmine this month is one of the reasons why, when it inevitably goes away forever, there will be no tears shed.

—Pat Forde ranks all 68 teams in the men’s NCAA tournament.

—Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News embarks on the same endeavor.

—Let’s have a big three weeks, ladies.

—The Athletic’s mega March Madness preview is here.

—Jeff Greer’s latest newsletter focuses in on a historic moment for Louisville men’s basketball.

Payne was interested in the job four years ago, and he was reportedly disappointed that Louisville reached out to him only after it was clear Chris Mack would be the next head coach. Now, Payne gets the chance to turn around a program Mack left in disarray.

We’ll spend a lot of time in the coming weeks and months talking about this hire, but here’s what we do and don’t know:

We don’t know what style of play Payne will want to implement. Nor do we know what he’ll do when his team is down three with a minute to play. We don’t know what prototypes of players he’ll want to recruit. We don’t know how he’ll schedule, though he gets the Maui Invitational in Year 1. We don’t know how he’ll handle the many cooks in the kitchen at Louisville — the many, many people who want a hand in the program and the many more who will come out of the woodwork now that he’s the coach.

What we do know is Payne is as well-respected and well-liked as any assistant coach I’ve heard about in a decade of covering college basketball. People who know Kenny Payne love Kenny Payne. He is first and foremost a relationships guy — a master at relating to people and developing a rapport. He is calm, even-keeled and resolute. Both of those attributes will be huge in his work to rebuild donor and fan-base confidence in the program as well as develop and retain players.

The two most immediate needs for Payne? Hire a staff and figure out the roster.

—The What High School Did You Go To boys are back with a new podcast episode reacting to the Kenny Payne hire.

—The Lexington Herald Leader dives into what Payne’s hiring could mean for Kentucky’s recruiting.

—Help out if you happen to spot this vehicle somewhere in Louisville.

—John Calipari spoke glowingly about Kenny Payne on Wednesday.

—The CJ highlights six things you should know about Payne.

—Come to the Yum Center, Magic.

—After a longer than they would have liked break, the U of L women’s basketball team is itching to get back on the court.

—Louisville football will be hosting a nice group of players from Texas this weekend.

—And finally, enjoy the hoops, kids.