Kenny Payne official announcements after dismissed this Shocked Us!!

Kenny Payne doesn’t do sound bites. He speaks in paragraphs rather than one-liners and, from all indications, directly from his heart. To watch the Louisville men’s basketball coach expound on the state of his program is to be reminded of a question first posed by the Peanuts strip’s Charlie Brown 60 years ago:

“How can we lose when we’re so sincere?”

Payne is sincerity personified, a man blessedly unburdened by pretense or guile. He may not succeed in restoring U of L to its traditional place in the college hoops hierarchy, yet in following a 4-28 faceplant with a Top 10 recruiting class, he has shown that sincerity sells. 

“You have to have faith in what you’re doing,” he told a roomful of reporters on July 28. “You’ve got to be about young people, not just about yourself, because if there’s a disconnect between a 17-18-19 year-old kid and a 56-year-old man, you’ll never be on the same page and they’ll never trust you.

“You can’t win without trust. They have to trust everything that comes out of my mouth. I’ve learned that this past year in some ways. I think, in some ways, I needed it.”

In Payne’s view, his 2022-23 team was not just bad, but “broken,” bereft of confidence and self-esteem, beaten down by the worst season in the school’s modern history and the “black cloud” of an interminable NCAA investigation since concluded. Having remade his roster with a cast of better and more intuitive athletes, he anticipates a “big jump” from rock bottom toward respectability. 

To illustrate the difference between then and now, Payne says a passing drill that took last year’s team three months to master was performed precisely in three days by the new cast of Cardinals. 

“I went from one extreme to another extreme,” he said. “The first extreme was I had to play guys that no matter what, (even) if they didn’t buy in, they had to be on the court. You had nowhere else to go. Now I have guys — 13 or 14 of them — that are Division I players, that are pretty decent players. . .

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