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Calipari Not Concerned About Kenny Payne Text Messages

By Dr. John Huang

Ever since the cash spilled out of the Emery Freight package addressed to Chris Mills’ dad back in 1988, Kentucky Basketball fans hold their breath every time there’s an allegation of impropriety within their beloved program. When it comes to national notoriety, BBN covets Final Fours and Championships—not probation and death penalties.

The most recent hint of trouble came this past summer when associate coach Kenny Payne’s name surfaced in court documents alleging corruption by senior officials in the Nike grassroots basketball program. Since then, fans have been turning a blind eye and holding their breath.

Head coach John Calipari supplied an additional measure of assurance that there truly is no hidden disaster waiting beneath the surface. According to Jerry Tipton and Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald Leader, Calipari—in a roundtable discussion with strategically selected media members—addressed some of the more salient issues of the case involving disreputable attorney Michael Avenatti in which Payne’s name had been linked.

Hopefully Calipari can now channel his energies towards winning Championship #9 on the basketball court rather than the courtroom.

The document, released on August 15, apparently contained text messages in which Payne asked Carlton DeBose, the head of Nike’s EBYL summer league about “helping” players and their families. In several text exchanges, Payne asks whether what Debose is doing can “come back n hurt” him and, he tells DeBose to “watch your back bro.”

According to Tipton’s report, Calipari suggested that Kentucky basketball was mentioned in the filing because a marquee program can generate attention to the case. Calipari also says that UK backs away from prospective prospects that are perceived to pose possible potential problems.

I’ve often heard the adage that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Based on everything I’ve heard so far, I don’t think I smell any smoke on this one. At least not yet. But just like that fateful day thirty years earlier, it doesn’t take much for the house to burn down.  

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at

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