LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 28: Assistant coach Kenny Payne, talks with Kevin Knox #5 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Rupp Arena on February 28, 2018 in Lexington, Kentucky.
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The New York Knicks are adding one of the best assistants in college basketball, Kenny Payne, to Tom Thibodeau’s bench.

Danny Small

Tom Thibodeau‘s New York Knicks coaching staff is starting to come together with the official hire of Kenny Payne, a former assistant to John Calipari at the University of Kentucky.

“I want to thank John Calipari, Eli Capilouto (President, University of Kentucky), Mitch Barnhart (Athletics Director) and the University of Kentucky for allowing me to be a part of a special program for the last 10 years that truly epitomizes winning basketball. I am a better coach and leader of young men today because of my time in Lexington under the legendary Coach Cal,” said Payne. “I now take the next step in my basketball journey and fulfill my dream of coaching in the NBA. I’m beyond grateful and excited for the chance to work for such a prestigious organization as the New York Knicks under the leadership of Leon Rose, Scott Perry, William Wesley and Tom Thibodeau, who I have such great admiration and respect for.”

Payne has a close relationship with team president Leon Rose and senior vice president William Wesley. There had been rumors of this move coming for weeks, but this news makes it official.

The high-profile assistant comes to the Knicks with a diverse set of skills. He’s close with many former Kentucky players in the NBA and is seen as someone who might be able to recruit stars to the Knicks. In the short-term, he has a strong track record with developing big man. Payne is the best of both worlds.

“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,” said Thibodeau. “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.”

In addition to Payne, there are rumors that the Knicks are trying to hire former head coach Mike Woodson as an assistant. Additionally, former interim head coach Mike Miller still has some support in the organization and is seen as a viable candidate to stay on amidst the coaching change.

Commitment To The Best Of The Best

Leon Rose’s hire came with legitimate questions. How would the long-time agent adapt to his new role as president of basketball operations for the Knicks?

So far, Rose is surrounding himself with the right people. First, the Knicks committed to adding talent in the front office with several shrewd hires including Walt Perrin and Brock Aller, among others.

Now, the Knicks seem to be plucking the best of the best when it comes to the coaching staff. First and foremost, Thibodeau is a coach with a proven track record of winning. Adding the likes of Payne, and potentially Woodson and Miller to the staff is another step in the right direction.

The Knicks might not be in a position to contend right away under Rose, but they are setting themselves up for success in the future with the offseason moves so far.

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