Louisville fires head basketball coach Kenny Payne

Payne, a former UofL player, led the Cardinals for two seasons. He finishes with a record of 12-52.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An uninspiring era of University of Louisville men’s basketball is over just two years after it started.

The university and athletic director Josh Heird announced Wednesday head coach Kenny Payne has been fired. UofL is now looking for a new leader of the program for the third time since 2018.

Editor’s Note: UofL Athletic Director Josh Heird talks to reporters about Payne’s removal.

“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,” 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.”

Heird will address the media at 3 p.m. That news conference will be live streamed on WHAS11.com, WHAS11+ and the WHAS11 YouTube channel.

Payne wrapped up his second season leading the Cards Tuesday with a 94-85 loss to North Carolina State in the ACC Tournament. He finished with a career record of 12-52 and 3-17 in the ACC, the fourth-worst mark among the program’s 24 head coaches dating back to 1912.

He was 1-21 in true road games.

RELATED: ‘I need all of Louisville with me’ | Kenny Payne says it takes time to build program as he faces uncertain future

After Tuesday’s game, Payne spoke at length about his time leading the program.

“When I walked into the program as the new head coach, I talked about [how] I needed everybody on the same page. We sort of forgot that,” he said. “I talked about how I’m not gonna let you blame me. I’m not standing up here by myself. I need all of Louisville with me. We sort of forgot that.”

He said it would take “three or four years” to re-build the program.

Payne was hired in March 2022 after Louisville and Chris Mack mutually agreed to part ways during the 2021-22 season. According to terms of the buyout in Payne’s contract, which WHAS11 obtained through an Open Records Request, the school owes him $8 million.

The Cardinals muddled through Payne’s first season in 2022-23, going 4-28 overall, and 2-18 in the ACC. It was the worst UofL season in modern history.

Payne’s first recruiting class was ranked No. 6 in the country, according to 247 Sports, with five of the six commitments ranked 4 stars or higher by the service. However 5-star small forward Trentyn Flowers announced in August he would forgo college and play professionally this season in Australia.

On Dec. 13, junior college transfer Koron Davis was first said by the school to be transferring before a second statement was issued saying he was dismissed. Davis never played a regular season game for Louisville and was not with the team for the last several weeks of his time on the roster.

RELATED: Louisville basketball player Hercy Miller out for remainder of season

In January, freshman Dennis Evans left the team after the program announced he would no longer be medically cleared to compete. In February, Hercy Miller had season-ending surgery.

The 2024 class is currently ranked 103rd by 247Sports and has just one player signed.

Payne made headlines this season for comments made in press conferences. 

After an exhibition loss to Division II Kentucky Wesleyan in October, Payne said Louisville “will never be the most talented team.” In November, he raised eyebrows after publicly saying Ty-Laur Johnson chose not to play for most of the first half against Bellarmine because the team didn’t have his preferred variety of compression tights.

Payne, the first Black head coach in school history, played for the team from 1985-1989 and was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Payne spent time as an assistant coach in the NBA and for the Kentucky Wildcats under John Calipari.

First appeared on www.whas11.com

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