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Report: Louisville 'Expected to Part Ways' with Kenny Payne

The head coach of the Cardinals' men's basketball program went just 12-52 in his two years at the helm, including 4-28 in year one.
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Kenny Payne era is reportedly coming to an end.

The University of Louisville is "expected to part ways" with the head coach of their men's basketball program, according to The Field of 68's Jeff Goodman. The firing will likely be official "in the next 24-48 hours," per Goodman.

ESPN's Pete Thamel, who also reported that Louisville officials "expect to inform" Payne that he will not return, says that Payne has yet to speak with athletic director Josh Heird since falling to NC State in the ACC Tournament. However, CBS Sports' Matt Norlander later reported that Payne will be officially fired when he returns to Louisville with the team on Wednesday.

Payne's tenure at Louisville has been nothing short of an abject disaster. The second-year coach, who had previously never been a head coach at any level, finishes with just a 12-52 record at his alma mater. His .186 winning percentage ranks as the fourth-worst amongst the Cardinals' 23 all-time head coaches (interim, acting or permanent), and second-to-last among the 14 who coached multiple seasons (Lawrence Apitz: .161 from 1937 to 1940).

In his first year at the helm last season, the Cardinals were one of the worst teams in high major basketball, getting blown out on a near-nightly basis and regularly setting new program records for overall futility. They finished just 4-28 overall and 2-18 in ACC play, more than surpassing the program's previous record for most losses in a single season of 20 from the 1997-98 season. UofL finished the 2022-23 season at No. 290 out of 362 Division I teams by KenPom, dipping as low as 305th.

Heading into the 2023-24 season, there was some hope that Louisville could experience a bounce back. Over the offseason, the Cardinals were able to flip the roster, bringing in No. 6 high school recruiting class and the No. 29 transfer portal class per 247Sports, and were able to avoid major punishment in their ongoing NCAA/IARP infractions case.

However, year two under Payne was also plagued by consistent failure. Louisville finished with an 8-24 overall record this past season to clinch back-to-back 20-loss seasons for the first time in program history. They struggled to put away teams in their weak non-conference schedule (309th in D1), and once again clinched dead last in the ACC after going 3-17 in league play. They dipped as low at 221st in KenPom before finishing at 198th.

Despite the Laurel, Miss. native having no prior head coaching experience, his prowess as a recruiter while an assistant with the University of Kentucky warranted a shot as a head coach with Louisville. But despite bringing in talent for the current team, the Cardinals' efforts out on the recruiting trail as of late have been sputtering. Louisville currently has just one verbal commitment in the Class of 2024, are the lone power conference team without a signee, and have whiffed on numerous targets in the cycle.

Payne was a four-year player for the Cardinals from 1985 to 1989, helping Louisville win a national championship in 1986. Prior to being hired by UofL in March of 2022, he had been an assistant coach with the NBA's New York Knicks for two seasons, and an assistant at Kentucky for a decade. While in Lexington, he made a name for himself as one of the top assistants in college basketball.

(Photo of Kenny Payne: Sam Upshaw Jr. - Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)

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