Calipari explains why UK assistant Payne would fit at Mississippi State

ATLANTA -- John Calipari said Thursday he hasn't "talked to anybody" from Mississippi State about Kenny Payne possibly being a candidate to replace Rick Stansbury in Starkville. But the Kentucky coach did spend a couple of minutes explaining why his assistant might make a good fit.

"He's from there," Calipari said when I asked about Payne and Mississippi State in a hallway here at the Georgia Dome just before his Wildcats held an open practice in advance of Friday's Sweeet 16 game against Indiana. "You can't be a head coach unless you're ready to say no -- ready to create discipline in these kids' lives, and he is. He's probably tougher on our kids than I am. And then his recruiting speaks for itself. ... He would be a good choice."

CBSSports.com reported earlier this week that Mississippi State had already targeted Murray State's Steve Prohm, and the Murray State athletic director later confirmed that a search firm hired by Mississippi State contacted Prohm last week about the opening. Sources have told CBSSports.com that Ohio's John Groce is another possible candidate. The Clarion-Ledger's Brandon Marcello has listed those two as candidates along with Florida State assistant Stan Jones, Mississippi Valley State head coach Sean Woods and Payne -- a native of Laurel, Miss., who won a national title at Louisville in 1986 before playing in the NBA. Payne has spent the past eight years developing a reputation as one of the nation's elite recruiters -- first at Oregon, now at Kentucky.

"If someone has an interest in him they're gonna end up calling me at some point or I'll make a call," Calipari said. "He's gonna have opportunities."

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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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