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Welcome Home, Coach Kenny Payne

Driving to the press conference to introduce Kenny Payne as head men’s basketball coach at the University of Louisville — Let us let that resonate for a sec, U of L Coach Kenny Payne — there was this on a vintage Jeep in front of me at a light.

The tire cover on the back was festooned with images of flowers.

It read “Good Vibes.”

Which is as good a place to start here as any.

Today is not about assistant coaching hires.

Not about looming NCAA sanctions.

Not about recruiting Milt Wagner’s grandson.

Not about Nike.

Not about offensive schemes or defensive philosophy or the transfer portal or which of the current squad Coach Kenny Payne hopes to keep for next season.

Today is about the symmetry that is the hiring of a former Cardinal Kenny Payne to lead the program.

Today is about the attendant JOY, plain and simple.

There shall be plenty of time in the days, weeks, years to come for all that.

* * * * *

As I saw the faces of many former Cardinals going back to the Hickman era who filled rows by the stage, my mind wandered.

Back to the joy of Indy and Knoxville, heartaches in Carbondale and New Orleans. And thousands of other games, Ws and Ls, that have informed my being.

Back to all those moments that have significantly informed my life, and that of many other Louisville fans, those who were lined up outside the Yum! before they opened the gates to fans, those dialing in at home, those of us who got on board during our formative years, felt the train recently derailed, a train now back on the tracks.

Here’s the story I’ve told before but shall now do again. It came to mind yet doesn’t even include me. Yet resonates with the intensity of my good vibes today.

Mully Goldberg was a pal of my dad, a huge U of L fan.

As the ‘58-’59 season was nearing its end, his health rapidly deteriorating. As that Cardinal squad made a late season run.

U of L was to meet UK in the Regional at McGaw Hall in Evanston. Mully convinced his doc, a big Cardinal follower, and a pal to take him to the game, despite his condition.

After the victory, one of the most hallowed in Cardinal lore, the two carried Mully across the hardwood, where he thanked Cardinal Don Goldstein for the win, telling him he could “die now in peace.”

Which he did the next week.

I am an old fart. I am full in my dotage. I’ve been a fan for seven decades. But I’m not ready to go yet.

Yet, on this day, the day that former Cardinal Kenny Payne is now U of L Head Coach Kenny Payne, my heart is full.

I am at peace.

* * * * *

When contemplating what I was going to do with this piece, my lede was going to be, “This. Just. Feels. Right.”

But today is about more than simply feeling right.

Coach Kenny Payne, humble, asking for the help of the community his return home has already started to heal, said it correctly.

“This is right.”

— c d kaplan