Sources — Louisville informs Kenny Payne that he is no longer the coach

Louisville officials expect to announce within the next 24 hours that Kenny Payne will not return as men's basketball coach, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Payne didn't speak with athletic director Josh Hurd until Tuesday night after losing the ACC tournament. Louisville's season ended with a 94-85 loss to NC State, and the Cardinals finished 8-24 overall and 3-17 in ACC play.

Louisville is expected to owe Payne about $8 million, having bought out what remained of the six-year deal he signed when he was hired, sources told ESPN. He finished his Louisville career with an overall record of 12-52, with just one win at home.

Following Tuesday's loss, Payne was asked about his performance as Louisville's coach and whether he deserves a third year.

“For me, I'm going back to day one,” he said. “When I came into the program as a new head coach, I talked about needing everybody on the same page. We forgot that. I talked about how I'm not going to let you take the blame. I'm not standing here alone, I want all of Louisville with me. We forgot that, I Talked, it's going to take time, I'm going to see who jumped on and off the Titanic. We sort of forget it, I gave a specific time, I said three or four years, and I'm fine with that, that's what I believed at the time, that's what this plan is to fix. I hope to have.

“With guys like that, you have a foundation. Brandon [Huntley-]Hadfield, Mike James, JJ Traynor, the young guys we have, we have a foundation. Whether I coach or not, I can look in the mirror and say I gave it my all to help this program.

Payne, who played at Louisville and won a national championship with the Cardinals in 1986 before being selected in the first round of the 1989 NBA draft, was named the program's coach following the 2021-22 season. As one of the top recruits in college basketball during his time as an assistant at Kentucky and Oregon, Payne was expected to sign top-ranked recruits and bring excitement to Louisville's KFC Yum! Center.

However, the Mississippi native ran into problems once he took over. Payne hired Milt Wagner, the former Louisville star and grandfather of then-No. 1 DJ Wagner, director of player development and alumni relations, only to see Wagner commit to Kentucky. Wagner's high school and grassroots teammate Aaron Bradshaw joined him with the Wildcats, and another grassroots teammate, Mackenzie McBaugh, committed to Duke before resuming his recruitment and ending up at Indiana. Those three players were among Payne's top targets in the 2023 class.

Protests continued in court. Louisville opened last season with a home exhibition loss to Lenoir-Rhyne, then dropped the first nine official games of Payne's tenure, the program's worst start in more than 80 years. The Cardinals eventually finished 4-28 overall and 2-18 in ACC play.

And there were staffing issues. Five-star prospect Trentyn Flowers left the program in August to play professionally in Australia. The Cardinals then fired junior guard Koron Davis in mid-December, hours after announcing he planned to transfer — after Davis announced on social media that he had not requested a transfer, calling it “dissatisfaction and sadness.”

More of the same problems this season, including another home exhibition loss, this time to Division II Kentucky Wesleyan, went 3-12 away from home last season and finished eighth in its league.

Louisville started the campaign 4-3, but three straight losses — a 1-7 loss at DePaul and a home loss to Arkansas State — all but sealed Payne's fate in December.

Amid speculation of an immediate coaching change following a 95-76 loss to Kentucky on Dec. 22, Hurd told local Louisville television station WDRB that Payne is staying in the new year.

The Cardinals won their first road game under Payne on Jan. 10 against Miami, but they would go 2-15 the rest of the way.

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