For the second straight spring, the Knicks are losing one of their assistant coaches to the NCAA.
Louisville is expected to name alumnus Kenny Payne as the team’s next head coach on Friday, according to multiple reports. He came to the Knicks to join Tom Thibodeau’s staff last year after spending a decade as John Calipari’s assistant at Kentucky from 2010-20.
The Knicks also lost Mike Woodson to his alma mater, Indiana, last March, and he led the Hoosiers to a First Four win Tuesday night over Wyoming in the school’s first tournament appearance since 2016.
Louisville finished the regular season with a 13-19 record and fired head coach Chris Mack in late January.
RJ Barrett played one season for retiring coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, and Thibodeau coached alongside Coach K with USA Basketball. They both are keeping an eye on Krzyzewski’s final foray into the NCAA Tournament beginning with the No. 2 seeded Blue Devils’ first-round game Friday against Cal State-Fullerton.
“Man, he’s been at it a long time, a long time. I’m happy for him; he’s had a great career,” Barrett said before scoring 31 points in the Knicks’ 128-98 win over the Trail Blazers. “Hopefully they go out there and end up with a win. Obviously that would be the best thing ever. I’m happy for him; happy that I was able to be one of his guys.”
“I mean, his career speaks for itself,” Thibodeau added. “He’s a great friend. And so, just pleased that he’s happy with everything that’s transpired. I think when he gets a chance to step away and look back, he’s just so unique and so special.”
Quentin Grimes (dislocated kneecap), Derrick Rose (ankle), Nerlens Noel (foot) remained out for the Knicks.
Thibodeau said Grimes is “very close” to making his first appearance since Feb. 16, possibly Friday against the Wizards.