John Calipari: “Kenny Payne is going to be a great asset to Coach Thibodeau’s staff”

(AP Photo/Bill Feig)

The New York Knicks have hired Kenny Payne, associate head coach at the University of Kentucky, as the first assistant on staff to new manager Tom Thibodeau.

Calipari posted a statement about his assistant’s departure on Twitter:

“This is a bittersweet day for us at [Kentucky basketball]. Kenny has been an extremely important part of our success here. His relationship with our players is second to none. KP trains and challenges them as hard as anyone else,” but they respect him, listen to him and learn from him because they know he cares. As a basketball coach and teacher, he could run any program in the country. He’s just as good as them.

“This is one of those opportunities that Kenny had to look to, and I fully support his decision to join Tom Thibodeau’s staff. Kenny’s approach to his players, his knowledge and experience in the game , and his work ethic will serve him well on a professional level. I have high expectations for him in the NBA. For [Julius Randle] and [Kevin Knox], it will be immediate, but as other players get to know and trust him, they will know it has one thing: their improvement and their success.

“I have no doubt that Kenny will be a great asset to Coach Thibodeau’s staff.”