LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Kenny Payne wanted to make several things perfectly clear.
The video that former University of Louisville football player Eric Wood and men’s basketball coach Chris Mack made appearing to dis Kentucky basketball and coach John Calipari was a joke between friends, intended to tease Payne.
Payne said that Kentucky basketball was great before he joined the program and will remain great now that Payne works for the New York Knicks.
And, Payne said, Calipari is a close friend and longtime mentor. Wood is also his buddy and was just giving him a hard time.
"Eric doesn’t deserve any grief for this," Payne said in a telephone interview Sunday afternoon. "It was a joke.
"Eric is a friend of mine and he was just having fun. He and Chris were happy that Louisville won the game (against UK on Dec. 26). Eric was just teasing me."
The story and video made waves on social media Saturday evening after Drew Franklin of Kentucky Sports Radio posted it on Twitter.
In the 33-second clip, Wood is filmed screaming into the camera. Mack is in the background with his hands on Wood’s shoulders, occasionally yelling. Payne said that the video was shot by Troy Hanke, a Louisville businessman who is a friend of Wood and Payne.
"Hey, hey," Wood shouted. "Kenny Payne won those games."
"Yeah!" Mack shouted. "Yeah!"
"Kenny Payne is gone," Wood said. "You know what Kentucky is minus Kenny Payne? 0-1. 0 and forever."
"What?" Mack yelled. "What?"
"Cal will never, never beat U of L again. NEVER," Wood continued. "Kenny Payne is with the New York Knicks ... U of L vs. UK minus Kenny Payne, 0 and forever."
The video appeared to be taken on the evening of Dec. 26, because an NFL game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Miami Dolphins is playing on the television in the background. Those teams played in Las Vegas that night.
Earlier that day, U of L defeated UK, 62-59, at the KFC Yum! Center. It was Mack’s first victory in three tries against Calipari and Kentucky. Calipari’s record against U of L as the UK coach is 11-3.
Payne said that he and Wood have become friends and golfing partners over the past five years. They're both former Cardinal athletes. Payne played basketball from 1985-89 while Wood played center for the football team from 2005-08, before joining the Buffalo Bills. Payne said that he did not remember if Wood sent him the video that night or the next day.
"I didn’t even look at it all for a few days," Payne said.
Payne said that he did not share the video with Kentucky Sports Radio and was not certain how they obtained it.
"I have no idea (how it became public)," Payne said. "It was obviously done as a joke. You’d have to be blind not to realize that.
"Kentucky basketball is the most prestigious and successful college basketball program in the country," he added. "I was blessed to be a part of it for a decade. More than that, I was blessed to work for Coach Cal, a Hall of Famer who is a great friend and mentor. In no way would I ever think that Kentucky’s success was because of me.
"It was never about me when I was at Kentucky. I was the one blessed with the opportunity to work with the coaches and the players there. That was just Eric trying to have fun with me."
Payne left UK in August to work for Tom Thibodeau and the New York Knicks, who have become one of the surprise success stories in the NBA this season.
The Knicks finished 21-45 last season, their sixth straight losing season. They’re currently 14-16 this season, on track to make the playoff as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Four former UK players — Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel, Kevin Knox and rookie Immanuel Quickley — are on the Knicks' roster.
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