Julius Randle did not change sides in his old rivalry with the college.
But moving forward, the former Kentucky basketball star will have more fond feelings for Louisville.
This ensured that the Cardinals hired new coach Kenny Payne.
Randle, a striker at the New York Knicks — where he trained Paine as an assistant before leaving this week for a job in Louisville — has worked with Paine as a professional and collector. Payne was an assistant to John Calipari in Kentucky for 10 years, including Randle’s only season there in 2013-14.
“KP, man, this guy is incredible, brother, and he’s going to have a tremendous amount of success there in Louisville, even though it’s the red school,” Randell told reporters Friday after the Knicks’ win over the Washington Wizards in New York. “I still bleed blue, but I love this man to death, my brother, and I will do everything in my power to help him achieve success, because you are talking about someone who deserves it, it is him.”
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Payne has built a reputation as a solid recruiter and talent developer, and Randle can attest to both traits.
Payne helped recruit Randle UK from Prestonwood Christian Academy in Dallas. Lexington was a 12-hour drive from home. Randall didn’t need persuasion to deal with that distance.
But for his mother, Caroline Kellys, the distance of more than 800 miles was an obstacle.
“He came to my house and said to my mom, I got you. You don’t have to worry,” Randall said. “And that’s exactly what it was, man. I went to Kentucky. I had nothing to worry about. He took me like I was his own child and really took care of me, kept me focused, kept me on track, whether it was school, whether it was in class or at the gym.”
When Randle moved to the NBA — long before he reunited with Payne with the Knicks — the two talked “consistently,” Randall said. Randall still calls Pine “Unc” but sees him as a “father figure” like his uncle, he said.
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Prior to the 2020-21 season, Randle signed with the Knicks and Payne joined the cast as an assistant. Coincidentally or not, Randle had his best season as a professional, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and six assists. He made the All-Star, his first All-NBA team and won the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
Speaking to the media before the game on Friday, Knicks coach Tom Tebodeau said that while he helped Payne more than that in New York, “the main thing was that player development ends with Julius.”
So it wasn’t easy for Randall to see Payne leave. Although he wanted Payne to pursue the opportunity in Louisville, he never told him about it.
“Man, selfish, I just got sick,” Randall said. “Like, I cried twice, to be honest with you.”
There was a lot of it.
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Payne said Friday at his opening press conference Friday that the Knicks were “incredible to me.” He is closely linked to team president Leon Rose and Executive Vice President William Wesley, and Payne said the three “cry six times, seven times a day for me to get out of there to come here.”
New York was reluctant to let Payne go. “More than I can tell you, it wasn’t easy,” he said on Friday to leave with the blessing of owner James Dolan.
When he spoke about Payne’s departure on Friday, Thibodeau began by thanking Dolan for “letting him go.”
“(Paine) is well established, he has relationships with a lot of Al Ain University guys, and I think this is a great way to start and I think he feels very comfortable in the college game,” Tibodo said. And I think it’s great for Louisville.
man all the timeLouisville’s search for a men’s basketball coach ended where it began, with Kenny Payne
Randall thinks so, too.
As a player, he worked closely with Payne.
But when he spoke about his former coach on Friday, Randle focused less on the court work the two of them did together than on the bond they formed after basketball.
“All he does is because he cares about you as an individual,” Randall said.
This approach should serve Payne especially in Louisville, Randell said, who said the chance for Payne to return to his alma mater “is like the end of a great story.”
“You get a chance like that, to be able to come back to Louisville, help this program — it’s always been a great program but this program has helped, help the city of Louisville and everything that’s going on there with social injustice and things like that and to have Being able to get out there and really help bring unity to this community is a huge thing as well.” “He honestly suits his personality exactly. It’s bigger than basketball. It’s not just about X and O games and winning. It’s about helping the players. It’s about helping the community and everyone around it. Therefore, he will achieve tremendous success, not only on the field but also off it.”