Ex-Gordon's Gin import named Knicks assistant coach
Ex-Gordon's Gin import named Knicks assistant coach
Alder Almo (Philstar.com) - August 12, 2020 - 11:35am

JERSEY CITY, New Jersey — The New York Knicks hired former PBA import Kenny Payne on Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) as part of Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff.

Payne has spent the last decade with the University of Kentucky serving as John Calipari’s associate head coach. He was widely credited for the strong recruitment program of the Kentucky Wildcats that produced 33 NBA Draft picks, including two first overall picks in Anthony Davis (2012) and Karl-Anthony Towns (2015).

Over a 10-year run in Kentucky, Payne assisted Calipari in steering the Wildcats to 295 wins, the 2012 NCAA Championship, four Final Four appearances, eight NCAA Tournament berths, five Southeastern Conference regular-season championships and five SEC Tournament titles.

“This decision wasn’t easy for me. I have a great job at Kentucky, and to think about leaving has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. But I have also been offered an incredible opportunity with the New York Knicks and a chance to help restore what I believe should be the premier organization in the NBA,” said Payne in a statement.

Payne has built a reputation as a big man’s coach at Kentucky helping develop a slew of today’s NBA big men: Davis (LA Lakers), Towns (Minnesota Timberwolves), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Nerlens Noel (Oklahoma City Thunder), Willie Cauley-Stein (Golden State Warriors) and PJ Washington (Charlotte Hornets).

Payne will reportedly receive $1.5 million annually, making him one of the highest paid assistant coaches in the league. He was receiving $900,000 annually at Kentucky before his NBA jump. In New York, he will be reunited with former Wildcats Randle and Kevin Knox.

“I’m thrilled that Kenny has joined my staff as an assistant coach. He has an outstanding ability to forge relationships with players and improve their skills,” Thibodeau said in the Knicks press statement. “He knows what it takes to win and has learned from one of the best coaches there is in John Calipari. Kenny will be a tremendous addition to our organization.”

Payne, a former first round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 1989, played in the NBA for four seasons with career averages of 3.5 points and 1.2 rebounds over 8.1 minutes in 144 games (13 starts). After his short stint in the NBA and one season with the Continental Basketball Association (1993-94), he traveled around the world playing as an import with stops at Italy, Japan, Brazil, Philippines, Cyprus, China, Argentina and Australia.

His brief stop in the PBA came in 1998 when he suited up as one of the two replacement imports in what became the Gordon's Gin Boars’ (now Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings) final game in the Governors’ Cup.

Gordon’s Gin coach Robert Jaworski tapped him and another former NBA player Rick Brunson in that elimination game against Formula Shell, which they eventually lost, 107-97.

Payne had 37 points, 10 rebounds and three assists in his lone PBA game. Brunson, who went on to become Thibodeau’s assistant coach in Minnesota, tallied 21 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Payne played for University of Louisville (1985-89) in college where he was a member of the 1986 NCAA national championship team.

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