Kenny Payne transcript:
As I talked about in the press conference, the criteria I was looking for, the whole time I knew it was him. Love of young people, high character, dedicated to craft, helping kids reach their dreams. All of that is him. And the big plus is that he’s a family member. I know that someone’s looking down on us today smiling. That’s his father, who taught me everything I know and to have (Nolan) in this program. Derek’s blood and spirit is back in Nolan.
How much convincing did it take?
For years, me and Nolan have talked about becoming a coach before he became a coach. Me giving him my experiences, teaching him what I’ve learned. So it really wasn’t a lot of convincing as much as ‘here’s an option for you. Here’s what I want.’ And then putting it on his table to make a decision if he wants to come and be a part of his family business.
When will he name the rest of the coaching staff?
Great question. Don’t know if this is the right timing. I just hit a home run. I’m gonna take my time. You know the criteria I’m looking for. You have to love kids, you have to have the ability to look young people in the face and ask them, what are their dreams, what are their goals, and you’ve got to be committed to helping them reach it. That will be coming.
Nolan is coming here having won a national title as a player, has been a part of great teams, has played for one of the greatest coaches in the history of college basketball. We want all that knowledge. His experience both as a player and as a coach is invaluable and I want it all. I know we’re in the same conference, but who best to scout Duke as this guy. Hate to put that pressure on him, but there it is.
On his relationship with Derek Smith.
Derek raised me. From the time I walked on this campus to the day I left, Derek Smith was a part of everything I did. To prepare for the NBA I trained with Derek with the 76ers and they ended up drafting me. I can’t begin to tell you what that man meant for me. He changed my life, and to be sitting here with his son with me, can’t put it into words you would understand. I can tell you there were nights we were arguing, fighting, and we was making me see life in a different way. About him having me mentally focus on visualizing myself as a better player, me falling asleep and him hitting me in the back of the head. About an hour on the Stairmaster constantly working until I could hardly walk and him saying, ‘dig more.’ About watching NBA players and him saying, ‘you’re going to replicate this player.’ So when I think about Derek and what he did for me, I wouldn’t be sitting here as head coach if it wasn’t for Derek Smith.
What was it like to be back out recruiting?
Both good and bad. When you’re in the gym and you’ve got the Kevin Durants, the Labron James, the Kyrie Irvings on the court and then you go and watch a high school kid there’s a difference. But it was good to see all the coaches, see the kids show respect and coaches of AAU programs congratulating me. A lot of coaches talked about the hire and how good they think we’ll be. So it was gratifying.
On his program.
This is gonna be players first. This is gonna be about their dreams, their aspirations, their education. We’re not gonna make that about us as adults. This program is gonna be built on how we help these young people. We want them to knock it out of the park and we want their families to be right beside them.
When did you first notice Nolan’s potential as a coach?
How about when he was 2 or 3 years old and he was walking around dribbling the basketball and he loved it. How about when he was one of the best high school players in the country and you saw how other players relate to him. How about as a young man you see him ask questions of other coaches and you see how inquisitive he is. From day one he’s been groomed to be a great coach.
What impressed you about how he relates to players?
When you play this game on a high level you try not to live in the vein of a coach, you try to live in the vein of a player. If you can live in the vein of a player, you know every emotion, every thought process a player is gonna go through. You can identify with that. Sometimes as coaches we forget that feeling. I don’t want to ever forget that feeling of what it’s like to be desperate and not knowing if you’re gonna get minutes. What it’s like knowing what you’re trying to do on the court but it’s not working. Nolan’s the same. I think when you’ve played this game on a high level, when you’re compassionate about other people, you can identify with what they’re going through and relate to it and that helps you have a feel for players.
What have your discussions been like with the current players?
I want to be all about young people. I wanted all of them to probably stay, but they made a decision that was best for them. I’m not holding anybody back, I’m not forcing anybody to stay. I want them to be here two feet in. Fight for what you want, let’s get it together. If not, I wish you the best, use me as an asset.
Have you identified positions you’re looking for?
First of all, when you put together a team, hopefully you can do it to resemble the style of play you want. So I know what was here and what’s coming back, but I have to develop those guys as well. I want to play fast, I want to be aggressive. But I want them in positions to succeed. Whatever’s the best way to do that, I have to do. That’s pretty much it.
Any discussions with Rosevelt Wheeler yet and any indication of what he’s going to do?
I hope he stays. We’ve had great conversations, he understands where I’m coming from, I understand where he’s coming from. The ball’s in his court.