Knicks ratings: Payne, coaching staff, Mitchell, Quickley

Knicks assistant Kenny Payne went through several tearful goodbyes before leaving the team to become Louisville’s head coach, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Payne had close relationships with many players and members of the front office, and it was not easy to let go.

“Over the past few days, (executive vice president of the Knicks) William Wesley and (team president) Leon Rose and I was crying six, seven times a day to get me out of there and come here,” Payne said Friday during his introductory press conference in Louisville. “So it was not an easy deal for me to come in here.”

Payne was an assistant at Kentucky before joining by Tom Thibodeau staff in 2020 and recruited Julius Randle play for the Wildcats. Emmanuel Quickley also played for Payne in Kentucky and calls him “Pops” because he’s like a second dad.

“It’s bigger than basketball when it comes to KP, and that’s why it’s so special,” Randle said. “And that’s why he has so many good relationships in the league with so many players because he’s going to push you on the pitch, but everything he does is out of love.”

There’s more on the Knicks:

  • Thibodeau has lost two of his top two assistants in two seasons, with mike woodson leaving last year to become a head coach at Indiana University, adds Katz. Thibodeau didn’t say if he plans to fill Payne’s position before the end of the season, but he wished him luck. “You always try to work on the development (of young coaches) knowing that there will be opportunities for other guys to get head coaching jobs and that sort of thing,” said Thibodeau. “So if you hire good people, you anticipate that these things will happen.”
  • Jazz star Donovan Mitchell will play his only game of the season at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, but many fans — and some in the front office — are hoping he’ll end up wearing a Knicks jersey, for Newsday’s Steve Popper. A source told Popper last month that Wesley would like to build the team around Mitchell, but acquiring him would be difficult even if Utah eventually puts him on the market. Mitchell still has three years and about $98 million left on his contract, and the Knicks don’t have many tempting trade assets.
  • Quickley has adapted to this season’s rule changes and hit the foul line as often as he did as a rookie, Popper says in the same article. Quickley was 9 for 9 in free throws Friday after going 7 for 8 on Wednesday. “I watch a lot more movies and just see how everyone gets calls,” he said. “You know, I had to adapt like everyone else. I don’t consciously try, but if I see someone out of position, I feel like I can grab them, then I’ll try.