Kentucky will pay top assistant Kenny Payne lavishly to stay put

Kentucky will pay top assistant Kenny Payne lavishly to stay put

Thanks to an annual salary that has ballooned to nearly $8 million per year, John Calipari has priced himself out of the market for many NBA gigs because all but the most lucrative ones would require him accepting a pay cut.

Now the Kentucky coach's top assistant is in a similar position in terms of landing a head coaching job at the college level.

Kenny Payne has signed a three-year deal worth a total of $2.1 million, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Monday. His average annual salary of $700,000 is higher than at least 22 of last season's NCAA tournament head coaches, according to USA Today's annual study, and more than twice as high as at least 14 of them.  

What that means is Payne probably won't leave Kentucky until a power-conference program offers him a head coaching job — or at least not until a deep-pocketed mid-major comes along. Payne would have to take a significant pay cut to coach at even the most successful small-conference programs.

It's unclear where Payne ranks among the highest paid assistants in the country because private schools like Duke aren't legally obligated to report salaries, but there's a good chance he's very near the top of the list. SMU assistant Tim Jankovich reportedly received a contract worth $700,000 a year in 2012 when he left his job as Illinois State's head coach to become the coach-in-waiting for the Mustangs whenever Larry Brown decides to step down.

Payne's new contract represents a $200,000 annual bump in pay over his previous one, a reward for a 38-1 season in which Kentucky fell two wins shy of becoming the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to win the national title with an undefeated record. Fellow Kentucky assistants John Robic and Tony Barbee both signed one-year contracts this offseason, Robic's worth $415,000 and Barbee's worth $375,000.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!