Josh Jamieson never stopped wanting to be a coach on the court.
But Louisville’s new men’s basketball assistant coach — introduced Wednesday as the third and final assistant on Kenny Payne’s first Cardinals staff — took his time in finding the right job.
For 15 seasons he worked in basketball operations in Oregon. And then Payne presented an offer to do what Jamieson had for so long he wanted to.
It’s “fair,” Jamieson said to see a parallel there.
Payne spent 18 seasons as an assistant coach — at Oregon, then Kentucky, then with the New York Knicks — before finally signing on with his alma mater for his first head coaching job.
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“There’s absolutely some parallels in saying, ‘Hey, we’re gonna be where we are and do our best,’” Jamieson said at a news conference Wednesday. “And then when something comes along, you give it the necessary amount of thought, and that’s why we ended up here today.”
Now that Payne’s at the front of the bench, his long stay in seats further down seems to have impacted his hires at Louisville.
It’s not just creating an opportunity for Jamieson. It’s hiring Duke’s Nolan Smith, a 33-year-old who some see as cut in Payne’s mold as a recruiter and builder of relationships. It’s landing Danny Manning, a former head coach who shares Payne’s proclivity to develop players on and off the court.
And after working so long as an assistant, Payne said, he’s focused on presenting opportunities to the men who’ll work for him, calling it “vital” to create an atmosphere where their input is valued.
“I never want to stifle guys from having a voice,” Payne said. “What I basically have done is hire guys and told them all, ‘You will be coaching. I need your input. You’re gonna have a voice with me.’ And that’s refreshing for them, and they’ll embrace it. They get to coach.
“It’s one thing to recruit. It’s one thing to be in the gym just you and a kid. But it’s another thing to talk about game plans, to talk about strategies to a team. And each guy will do that.”
Payne’s plan was to put together a staff of coaches who complement one another. Smith is just starting out in coaching; Manning has a wealth of experience both as an assistant and a head coach.
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Smith and Manning have been in the recruiting trenches; Jamieson — an assistant coach at Portland from 2003-05 — will have to re-learn parts of that process, but he’s been managing much of Oregon’s program, with a hand in everything from scouting to scheduling.
But along with differing strengths, Payne pinpointed coaches with similar priorities.
“I wanted like-type minds, people that the core of who they are is about giving,” Payne said. “Giving their knowledge, giving their experiences. People that can sit in a room and not be worried about the next person and what they’re saying, that can be open and work together.”
Above all, Payne has stressed from the start, his staff will prioritize players.
“I believe that between Kenny, Nolan, Danny and whomever else is part of it,” Jamieson said, “the focus is always going to be on the young men and their family that are trying to reach their dreams.”
So Payne sought coaches who not only could bring in talented players but assess and correct issues once they’re in Cardinal red.
“I don’t want to sit in a staff meeting and the coaches are saying negative things about players,” Payne said. “Fix the problem. We’re never gonna talk about the problem. Fix it. If we can do that, we’re way ahead of the ballgame.”
Payne still has hires to make. Though his assistant coaching staff is complete, he still needs support staffers — in strength and conditioning, basketball operations and positions Payne is only now fully understanding.
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“When I’m finished with the whole gamut of putting the whole thing together, you’ll see it’s gonna be even more special,” Payne said. “There’s a lot that goes into this. Probably more than I expected when I first started. But what I’m trying to do is surround young people with the best of the best.”
And even that will only be a first step, Payne said.
“The second part of the puzzle is to get high-end talent to come in here so that we can build a culture of winning,” Payne said. “I surrounded young people with the best of the best minds in basketball that all have a culture or are coming from a culture of winning. A championship culture is what we’re trying to build here.”
That will take talent and time.
For now, though, Payne is cofinding he’s off to a good start.
“In a million years I never thought that I would be able to put a staff together like this,” Payne said. “I really believe I have the best staff in college basketball.”