By LARRY VAUGHT
After his second straight strong performance Saturday, Kentucky freshman Skal Labissiere credited assistant coach Kenny Payne for helping him.
He said that Payne “did a really good job” as did his teammates being physical with him in practice.
But coach John Calipari said Payne does more than just Kentucky’s biggest players.
“He’s working with guards and everybody on this team, but let me just tell you what he does: He has a great relationship with these kids. He doesn’t BS them. He doesn’t tell them what they want to hear. He tells them the truth. That’s one,” Calipari said.
“And two, he’s extremely hard on them. He is harder on them than I am, which is good for me, because I’m tough, too, but I’m not as tough as him. I mean, he absolutely accepts nothing but their best.
“We’re not here to placate. We’re not here to alibi. We’re not here to enable. We’re here to move you from Point A to Point B to Point C. We’ve done this. There’s a process to it. You guys that buy the process are fine. The other guys, you’re either delusional or you’re trying to do it your own way and it doesn’t work. There is a process to this.
“Kenny is there for these kids, he has a great relationship, but it’s based on trust because he doesn’t BS them. I’m not here – we’re here to move you and move your game and get you to be the teammate you need to be.”
Payne was mentioned as a head coaching candidate at several schools last year, including Mississippi State. When this season ends, he deserves more hard looks and seems to me would be a perfect coach for many schools.
“I don’t think it’s fair to Kenny to say, ‘Well, he’s a big man coach.’ He is a coach, he is the associate (head) coach. He took over at South Carolina and did a better job than I would’ve done,” Calipari said referring to the game where he was ejected.
“Matter of fact, if we play South Carolina again (in the SEC Tournament), I’ll probably be sick that day, let him coach the game. So he’s not just a big man coach. He is a basketball coach who has done a great job.”