Kenny Payne doesn’t know Jeff Brohm, but he knows Jeff Brohm.
The Louisville basketball Coach may not have a personal connection to Brohm, but he knows Brohm’s Legacy as a player at U of L; he knows the ties the new Cardinals football coach has to the university and the city.
He’s long followed Brohm’s career from afar and Payne spent a little time this week catching up on his new co-worker, including by watching that now-famous XFL sideline interview — the “Let’s play football!” one.
Payne Admired the passion.
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“I think that in order to get young people to believe in what you believe, it has to be a passion for you,” he said. “I hope for me personally that the players look at me and see, ‘This dude loves Louisville. Look at the former players coming here. He’s fighting for them to be a part of this. He’s fighting for the community to be a part of this.’ And Jeff, I think the same.”
And while Payne doesn’t know a lot about Brohm, he thinks “we have a lot in common.”
Payne played basketball at Louisville from 1986-89. Brohm played quarterback for the Cards from 1989-93.
And now, Payne said, the two are “coming back to our homes and the place where we have our foundation built and helping Restore it.”
For Payne, that process is taking time.
His Cardinals are 0-8 entering Saturday’s game at Florida State, the worst start for a U of L men’s basketball team since the 1940-41 team lost its first 11 games.
And though it’s been a Brutal beginning — Louisville has lost its past five games by a combined 129 points — Payne on Friday wasn’t ready to promise it’ll get better soon.
“I don’t feel like we’re on the upward swing yet,” Payne said. “I don’t know yet if we’ve really hit rock bottom. I know that we’re low.”
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But the recent level of competition — four of Louisville’s past five opponents have been ranked in the top 50 at college basketball analytics site KenPom.com, two in the top 20 — has made it hard to evaluate exactly where the Cards are, Payne said.
Still, it’s clear things are bad.
Florida State is 1-9 with losses to Stetson and Siena, and KenPom still gives the Seminoles a 73% chance to beat Louisville. ESPN’s Matchup Predictor is even more confident, putting FSU’s chance of winning at 87.8%.
The hope at Louisville is that Brohm won’t have such a rough start.
But win or lose, Payne knows something about how the new coach will feel.
He recalled a conversation with Michigan Coach Juwan Howard when Howard accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater when Payne said he told Howard “I can’t imagine how you feel.”
Now he gets it.
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“There’s something that you can’t describe,” Payne said. “Most people will never have that feeling — the obligation, the burden, the gift, the blessing, but the hurt. You live with that every day.”
Brohm might have that feeling soon.
And although basketball’s been a bumpy ride so far, Payne insists he’s not discouraged. And although things haven’t gone the way he wants, he figures that in the fall, Brohm will approach some things in much the same way he has.
“He’ll want to embrace former players,” Payne said. “He’ll want to embrace this community where he’s been a staple for years, even before he came to Louisville — his family, football, brothers. They’ve been a part of this community. They are Louisville. So what better guy to bring back home than a guy like that?”
Reach Louisville men’s basketball Reporter Brett Dawson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BDawsonWrites.