Kenny Payne could join Tom Thibodeau on the New York Knicks bench.
Momentum seems to be building for Kentucky assistant and player development guru Kenny Payne to join Tom Thibodeau along the sideline with the New York Knicks.
The New York Daily News first reported Payne as an assistant option, and a new report from Stadium on Saturday indicates he is weighing an offer to sign with the Knicks.
Kentucky Sports Radio recently reported it is a “real possibility” he decides to head to New York, with a decision expected this week. Payne and recently-hired Knicks executive William “World Wide Wes” Wesley are close.
Payne was a key coach in Kevin Knox’s development before he was selected with the 9th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Perhaps the Kentucky assistant can unlock whatever has been missing from Knox’s game at the pro level.
Of course, mentioning Payne’s name draws the attention to bigger NBA stars than Knox. Karl-Anthony Towns swears by the 53-year-old coach.
"“KP is one of the best development coaches in the world,” Towns told The Athletic last year. “KP is the horse beneath the jockey driving Kentucky basketball.”"
Kentucky Sports Radio reported in July the Knicks are “intrigued” by his ability to recruit former Kentucky stars, such as Towns and Devin Booker.
Both young players recently signed long-term contracts with their respective teams, so star gazing might be a bit far fetched for either of those players. It’s worth noting that Payne also had success developing superstar big man Anthony Davis, who is expected to re-sign with the Lakers in the offseason.
Kenny Payne would be a key add to the Knicks coaching staff
Player development is a major area of focus for recently-hired Knicks president Leon Rose. He has brought in college scouting guru Walt Perrin to identify the best young talent, along with new professional scouts to scour the NBA landscape.
The Knicks are considering hiring several player-development coaches in addition to filling out the assistants on Thibodeau’s staff, per SNY.
Payne would give New York developmental strength on the sideline. However, he would likely be a costly hire as he is earning $900,000 through next June at Kentucky. James Dolan is already paying David Fizdale the remainder of his $22 million contract, as well as what is believed to be a similarly-sized salary for new coach Tom Thibodeau.
The Knicks are expected to hire veteran NBA coach Mike Woodson as a top assistant. Former interim coach Mike Miller will seemingly retain a role within the organization as well.
The Knicks are currently sitting at home as the NBA resumes play in the Orlando bubble. A recent report by The Athletic says the “Delete 8” teams could be allowed to workout in Orlando once some playoff teams are eliminated. However, New York has been reluctant to participate in any event that would force their players, many of whom are pending free agents, to travel.