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Kentucky assistants get absolutely paid with new contracts

By Matt Norlander | Staff Writer

Kenny Payne is now contracted to more than $1 million -- as an assistant. (USATSI)

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If any school was going to raise the bar on what to pay its assistants, you knew it would be Kentucky.

The school announced pay increases for John Calipari's crew on Wednesday. The biggest bump? Assistant Kenny Payne, who now has a two-year contract that will net him $1 million.

Yes, an assistant inked to a million bucks -- not including incentives. Welcome to major college basketball in 2014. This is Kentucky. Previously, what was one of the highest contracts among college basketball assistants belonged to former Maryland assistant/ace recruiter Dalonte Hill, who was bringing in 300 large per season.

Hill is no longer with Maryland in wake of his third DUI charge in five years, which led to his resignation last November.

And Payne made $350,000 before this raise anyway.

Payne is now making more annually than former UK assistant Orlando Antigua did. Antigua, who left the program to take the South Florida job last month (a five-year, $4.75 million contract), brought in $275,000 last season.

"There's not a better partner to work with to help these young men achieve their dreams,” Calipari said in a statement. “His feel for the game and ability to develop players is second to none. I have all the confidence in the world that Kenny will make a great head coach someday, but we're ecstatic to have him as a part of our staff as associate head coach for the near future."

UK assistant John Robic also got a little more comfortable in life, signing a two-year deal that is set at $375,000 per before incentives.

When Calipari is your boss, and you and the boss have gone to three Final Fours -- and won a title -- in four years, then money is coming. Especially at Kentucky. Calipari and Co. will put two more players into the NBA in less than two months, when Julius Randle and James Young are drafted. That will bring his total to 19 since he arrived in 2009.

New Wildcats assistant Barry Rohrssen (now clearing $375,000 annually) is stepping into one of the best -- or maybe the best -- situations in the game.

It was only a matter of time before colleges that could afford it opted to start paying their assistants better than many schools can pay head coaches. We had to figure Kentucky would be the first.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Orlando Antigua was previously an associate head coach at Kentucky. He was only an assistant in title.
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