Amid speculation about an imminent coaching change, Louisville athletic director Josh Heird said Friday that men’s head basketball coach Kenny Payne will remain in place as the Cardinals enter ACC play.
Speaking to local Louisville television station WDRB, Heird squashed the rumors — for now.
“Kenny and I have had a number of conversations throughout the last week, and Kenny is going to serve as our head coach as we move into the new year,” he said. “And I’m going to do what I do with every one of our programs, which is evaluate what’s happening throughout the season.”
Heird’s announcement came less than 24 hours after Louisville suffered a 95-76 loss to rival Kentucky, dropping its record to 5-7 on the season. Following back-to-back losses earlier this month to 1-7 DePaul and 3-7 Arkansas State, the latter at home, speculation swirled that Payne would be fired and replaced by an interim coach for the rest of the season. That didn’t come to fruition, and Louisville bounced back with a 22-point win over Pepperdine before losing to Kentucky.
“If you haven’t made some deposits in the bank, people aren’t going to give you the benefit of the doubt,” Heird told WDRB. “… If you haven’t created that positive momentum and made some deposits with wins, people are going to say that’s a negative. Results matter. They absolutely do. So, to answer your question of is there a way to turn the temperature down outside of winning basketball games? I think that’s going to be hard to do, to be honest with you.”
Payne, who played at Louisville and won a national championship with the Cardinals in 1986 before being selected in the first round of the 1989 NBA draft, was named the program’s head coach following the 2021-22 season.
In Payne’s initial season at the helm, Louisville lost its first nine games and finished 4-28. He’s now 9-35 through 1½ seasons.
If Louisville were to make a move during the season, it would owe Payne $8 million, the buyout of what’s remaining on the six-year contract he signed when he was hired, sources told ESPN.
The Cardinals don’t play again until Jan. 3 when they travel to Virginia.