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Louisville officially names Kenny Payne new head men’s basketball coach

A new era is “officially” here.

Kentucky v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

It’s official. Kenny Payne is the new head coach of the University of Louisville men’s basketball program.

Payne’s contract with the Cardinals will be for six years, extending through the 2027-28 season. He will be paid $3.35 million per year.

“As I stated when we began this process in early February, the University of Louisville is a destination job and the strength of our candidate pool proved this out,” said U of L interim athletic director Josh Heird. “After a thorough national search during which we sat down with a number of expectational coaches, it was clear that Kenny Payne was what we need. His basketball knowledge, his passion for his student-athletes, his vision for our program and his understanding of what Louisville Basketball means to our city and to our institution, are evident. I am thrilled to welcome Kenny and Michelle, and their children, Alexis and Zan, to the University of Louisville.”

The 55-year-old Payne will become just the sixth Louisville head coach over the last 48 years, and the first Black coach of a program that was at the forefront of integration nearly 60 years ago. Payne most recently served as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks after 15 years as a college assistant or associate head coach at Oregon and Kentucky.

“I want to thank President Gonzalez and Josh Heird for this incredible opportunity to return to a place that means so much to me to lead our storied basketball program,” said Payne. “While there are challenges, I see opportunities, and if we are united and aligned, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. Our fans and community deserve a championship basketball program fueled by exceptional and high-character student-athletes, and it is my responsibility to deliver on that vision. I cannot wait to get started.”

As a player at Louisville, Payne scored 1,083 points in his career (1985-86), connecting on 40.1 percent of his career three-point attempts (85-of-212, fourth-highest in U of L history). He was a member of Louisville’s 1986 NCAA Championship team as a freshman and over his collegiate career, Louisville participated in three NCAA Sweet Sixteens, won three Metro Conference championships and three Metro tournament titles. As a senior playing under Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum, Payne averaged 14.5 points and 5.7 rebounds and was named to the All-Metro Conference Second Team.

Payne’s introductory press conference at the KFC Yum Center is set to begin shortly after 10 a.m.