Could the New York Knicks look to a Kentucky assistant to help recruit star players?
Tom Thibodeau is set to become the next head coach of the New York Knicks with an official Zoom press conference expected any day now. Meanwhile, it has been reported that the front office might dictate who two of his assistants will be, with former interim coach Mike Miller and former head coach Mike Woodson leading candidates.
Another rumored candidate to join the bench is Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne. The New York Daily News reported he could be an option for the Knicks, along with former point guard Rod Strickland.
Building off the Daily News report, Kentucky Sports Radio says New York has not officially contacted Payne. However, KSR sources indicate the Knicks are “intrigued with Payne’s ability to recruit former Kentucky stars such as Karl-Anthony Towns and Devin Booker to New York when they become free agents in the future.”
Does this rumor make any sense?
Let’s start with Devin Booker. While the Knicks have recently been tied to the scoring guard, the idea is based on him becoming disgruntled with the situation in Phoenix, perhaps leading to a trade. The former Kentucky standout just signed a five-year max contract with the Suns. There is really no incentive for Phoenix to move him anytime soon. He won’t become a free agent until 2024.
As for Karl-Anthony Towns, he also recently signed a five-year max deal that will keep him under Minnesota’s control until 2024. And his relationship with Tom Thibodeau while the two were together up north wasn’t all roses (no pun intended).
So any speculation about Payne joining the Knicks coaching staff to “recruit free agents” is pretty far-looking ahead.
Where the Kentucky coach could provide value is working with his former understudy Kevin Knox. Payne recently told the New York Post that he believes Knox can become a star player in the right situation.
"“No question, I think a new staff comes in and can evaluate what the kid is and tell him what he needs him to do,’’ Payne told The Post in June before Thibodeau was hired. “He’s starting with a clean slate. There’s no prejudging of who he is. He can go out and feel comfortable and do the things to help the team win. I think he’s coming back with a new and different fire. With a little adversity, you can attain greatness. And he’s been through it.”"
Knicks president Leon Rose is reportedly not sold with Knox so far. It will be interesting to see how the young wing fits into the team’s future plans and whether a potential hire of Payne could change that.