This is not the time of year when we usually crank out the coaching carousel or worry about these kinds of matters. Aside from a few interim head coaches, such as at West Virginia and Charlotte, every program knows who their current head coach for the future is, but that doesn’t mean some speculation isn’t in order.
Louisville basketball has been something of a mess ever since the fallout of Rick Pitino’s scandal, which led to his dismissal in 2017. In the half decade following that, interim coach David Padgett and former Xavier coach Chris Mack did their best to get the Cardinals back on track, but they were still not making headway in the ACC or at the national stage.
Just over eighteen months ago, Louisville turned to Kenny Payne as their new head coach. He had starred for the Cardinals back in the late 80’s, winning a national championship as a freshman in 1986, and had later played briefly in the NBA. He had been coming off long coaching stints at Oregon and Kentucky and had spent the previous two seasons as an assistant for the New York Knicks.
Payne was brought into this program to inject life into the Cardinals, to rebuild the program and its culture and to make it a national power again. While Louisville has yet to play a regular game in his second season as head coach, it’s clear to see that this hasn’t been the result of his hiring.
Things got off to an awful start, as Louisville lost their first nine games last season, including three straight to mid-majors on their home court, each by a single point. They would finish the season a dreary 4-28, dead last in the ACC, and without any semblance of growth or hope in the program. Payne was retained after a dreadful year one, but have things gotten any better?
Year two hasn’t officially begun, but it’s getting a rotten start as well, as the Cardinals just lost their exhibition contest 71-68 to Kentucky Wesleyan, a D2 team that finished under .500 last season. Payne spent the offseason rebuilding the roster but it’s been the same results in Louisville.
It’s important to note that Kenny Payne has not been fired and there have been no rumblings that his job is in immediate danger. However, with a bleak outlook in Louisville, we’re going to spend some time looking at candidates for this job if he’s fired at the end of his second season. A number of these names are coaches we brought up two offseasons ago when the job was open, but it’s still an intriguing list of figures.