March 28, 2022 – Chicago-based DHR Global has assisted in the recruitment of Kenny Payne as the sixth men’s head basketball coach for the University of Louisville. He replaces Chris Mack, who mutually parted ways with the school in January. DHR’s managing partner and global sports practice leader Glenn Sugiyama headed the assignment. “As I stated when we began this process in early February, the University of Louisville is a destination job and the strength of our candidate pool proved this out,” said interim athletic director Josh Heird. “After a thorough national search during which we sat down with a number of expectational coaches, it was clear that Kenny Payne was what we need. His basketball knowledge, his passion for his student-athletes, his vision for our program and his understanding of what Louisville Basketball means to our city and to our institution, are evident.”
Mr. Payne, who becomes the school’s first black men’s head basketball coach of the school, most recently served as an assistant coach with the New York Knicks after 15 years as a college assistant or associate head coach at Oregon and Kentucky. After averaging 14.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as a senior at Louisville, Mr. Payne was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers with the No. 19 overall pick of the 1989 NBA draft.
“They could not hire anybody that will do a better job than Kenny Payne,” coach John Calipari said. “Great coach, great human being, great husband, great father, Louisville graduate. I may say he should have been hired before there, but you know what? They get him, they’ve got the best of the best.”
“I think (Payne) has great comfort in the college game because of the great success that they had at Kentucky,” said Tom Thibodeau, head coach of the New York Knicks. “I think for him, the Louisville job is obviously appealing because it’s his alma mater.”
“While there are challenges, I see opportunities, and if we are united and aligned, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish,” said Mr. Payne. “Our fans and community deserve a championship basketball program fueled by exceptional and high-character student-athletes, and it is my responsibility to deliver on that vision. I cannot wait to get started.”
Mr. Sugiyama’s past searches include the 2006 Stanford football search that landed Jim Harbaugh. He assisted Purdue in hiring former Cardinal Jeff Brohm as its football coach and Florida State University (FSU) in an athletic director search that saw former University of Louisville AD Vince Tyra become a candidate before FSU hired Seminole Boosters CEO Michael Alford.
DHR Global recently assisted Northwestern University in the recruitment of Derrick Gragg as the Combe Family vice president for athletics & recreation. He succeeded Mike Polisky, who resigned as the university’s athletic director. The search process, aided by DHR, was kept confidential to ensure the ability to identify and recruit the best possible candidates, according to Morton Schapiro, president of Northwestern. “It was essential for us to find the right leader for the next chapter at Northwestern — someone who can build both academic and athletic excellence at a time of rapid change in the intercollegiate sports landscape, and also someone who can create the best possible environment for students, staff and coaches,” he said. “After talking extensively with Derrick, it was clear that he was the ideal person for the job.”
A Leader in Sports Recruitment
DHR’s sports practice is a global specialty for the firm with capabilities on six continents across all sports-related organizations. These range from Fortune 500 companies and professional sports teams to public and private university athletics. The firm has overseen searches for the University of Pittsburgh, Colorado State University, Fresno State University, San Jose State, Kansas, Syracuse, and Quinnipiac University, among others.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media