It is Just Right: Coach Kenny Payne

Driving to the press conference to introduce Kenny Payne as head men’s basketball coach at the University of Louisville — Let us let that resonate for a sec, U of L Coach Kenny Payne — there was this on a vintage Jeep in front of me at a light.

The tire cover on the back was festooned with images of flowers.

It read “Good Vibes.”

Which is as good a place to start here as any.

Today is not about assistant coaching hires.

Not about looming NCAA sanctions.

Not about recruiting Milt Wagner’s grandson.

Not about Nike.

Not about offensive schemes or defensive philosophy or the transfer portal or which of the current squad Coach Kenny Payne hopes to keep for next season.

Today is about the symmetry that is the hiring of a former Cardinal Kenny Payne to lead the program.

Today is about the attendant JOY, plain and simple.

There shall be plenty of time in the days, weeks, years to come for all that.

 * * * * *

As I saw the faces of many former Cardinals going back to the Hickman era who filled rows by the stage, my mind wandered.

Back to the joy of Indy and Knoxville, heartaches in Carbondale and New Orleans. And thousands of other games, Ws and Ls, that have informed my being.

Back to all those moments that have significantly informed my life, and that of many other Louisville fans, those who were lined up outside the Yum! before they opened the gates to fans, those dialing in at home, those of us who got on board during our formative years, felt the train recently derailed, a train now back on the tracks.

Here’s the story I’ve told before but shall now do again. It came to mind yet doesn’t even include me. Yet resonates with the intensity of my good vibes today.

Mully Goldberg was a pal of my dad, a huge U of L fan.

As the ’58-’59 season was nearing its end, his health rapidly deteriorating. As that Cardinal squad made a late season run.

U of L was to meet UK in the Regional at McGaw Hall in Evanston. Mully convinced his doc, a big Cardinal follower, and a pal to take him to the game, despite his condition.

After the victory, one of the most hallowed in Cardinal lore, the two carried Mully across the hardwood, where he thanked Cardinal Don Goldstein for the win, telling him he could “die now in peace.”

Which he did the next week.

I am an old fart. I am full in my dotage. I’ve been a fan for seven decades. But I’m not ready to go yet.

Yet, on this day, the day that former Cardinal Kenny Payne is now U of L Head Coach Kenny Payne, my heart is full.

I am at peace.

 * * * * *

When contemplating what I was going to do with this piece, my lede was going to be, “This. Just. Feels. Right.”

But today is about more than simply feeling right.

Coach Kenny Payne, humble, asking for the help of the community his return home has already started to heal, said it correctly.

“This is right.”

— c d kaplan


16 thoughts on “It is Just Right: Coach Kenny Payne

  1. Coach Payne’s speech was heartfelt, honest and humble. He asked us—Cards Fans—for our help. Imagine that. It was a wonderful introduction.

    As was your “question,” or more accurately, heartfelt thanks from the floor, Seedy. What a morning. New day rising.

  2. I am a cardinal lifer like you. I loved your comment today at the news conference. As an introduction I am so impressed with this man. WOW!!

  3. Your comments today at the PC were heartfelt and I am sure they resonated with Kenny. I am glad Kenny K gave you the mike.

  4. I know you may be the longest tenured Card fan in existence—or at least one of them. I suspect that you are not kidding when you say it feels “right” to you. But maybe the last few years have jaded me. I always pulled for the Cards over “your” cayuts ever since I realized UofL had a sports program. (Coming from Harlan, KY., the earth ended at the western border of Fayette County). One of the reasons I did so was because I perceived the UbaK to be cheating racists. This was confirmed when I attended law school in Lexington.

    Maybe I was/am wrong, but I fear that KP has the stench of UK on him from being on Cal’s staff for 9+ years. I recognize that with the NIL, what once was “cheating” has now become the norm. I also understand the we have bent the rules a time or two as well…shame on those players for having sex on campus—can you believe the repugnancy of that?

    I fear that the college game is now no more than a semi-pro league and it is hard for me to get pumped up for it as much as I used to live for it. Hopefully, games like last night in Indy can move me past that feeling.

    But for now, I can’t say it feels right for me, even though KP is the logical course. I guess.

  5. I was awed by Payne’s remarks this morning along with his responses to the predictable questions from the media. But Chuck, your “question” was the the icing on the cake. What a terrific ending to a very memorable event.

  6. You speak for so many of us, in particular us 70-somethings who have so many shared memories long for the return to greatness. The introduction and presser convince me, too, that CKP is the right man to lead this program. Your remarks there and above are on point.

  7. Playedgolf in number of years ago with a Kenny Payne and he’s a wonderful man and a great choice, couldn’t be happier

  8. Kenny was terrific, but you Chuck summed it up wonderfully for all of us 70 something fans. You brought a tear.

  9. Great day for Card fans! Your statement to Kenny and the fans was perfect and for a old dude you looked pretty good on TV!!!

  10. Kenny eloquently set forth his philosophy of basketball. He will have the support of so many. And HE must win. No matter what, the buck will stop with him. Reality check, accolades notwithstanding.

  11. Sometimes I stumble with my expressed emotions with regard to our Cardinal BB team but CK seems to read my mind and writes just how I feel.

    I am older than dirt so I lived the KP era and beyond. What has helped me to be excited about him as our coach is watching the Cards vs South Carolina 2 overtime game again.

    I saw a humble warrior who kept his eye on winning under the toughest conditions.


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