Louisville basketball hires Milt Wagner, grandfather of top 2023 recruit DJ Wagner

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Louisville men's basketball has hired Milt Wagner, a former Cardinal who won the 1986 NCAA title alongside new head coach Kenny Payne, as a director of player development and alumni relations, the team announced Tuesday afternoon.

Reports of the school hiring Wagner surfaced Tuesday morning, and his new job title appears when you search his name on the University of Louisville's online directory.

"I'm so excited for this opportunity to have my brother Milt 'Ice' Wagner with me every day to help me build the championship culture I'm trying to establish," Payne said in a statement. "He is truly one of the most beloved Cardinals of all time both by the fans and by his teammates and our former players."

Wagner's grandson is top-ranked 2023 recruit DJ Wagner. Payne and the Cardinals have been locked in a battle for the 6-foot-3 guard from Camden, New Jersey, with Kentucky's John Calipari, who coached DJ's father, Dajuan, at Memphis during the early 2000s. Wagner was a member of Calipari's staff at Memphis from 2000-06, then served as an assistant at UTEP from 2006-10 and Auburn from 2010-14.

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Camden High School junior DJ Wagner is the 2022 South Jersey Boys Basketball Player of the Year.   DJ Wagner is the son of Dajuan Wagner and the grandson of Milt Wagner, both legendary Camden players who went on to play in the NBA.
Camden High School junior DJ Wagner is the 2022 South Jersey Boys Basketball Player of the Year. DJ Wagner is the son of Dajuan Wagner and the grandson of Milt Wagner, both legendary Camden players who went on to play in the NBA.

It's unclear how Wagner's new position at Louisville will impact his grandson's recruitment. DJ Wagner, who will be in Louisville on Memorial Day weekend to play in a Nike-sponsored EYBL session, has not tipped his hand as to which school is leading the pack vying for his commitment. Speaking to the Indianapolis Star at the second EYBL session in April, the five-star prospect said he's "just enjoying the process."

"I’m interested in every college right now," he said when asked about his interest level in Louisville. "I’m still open to every school."

It was unclear how the hire may be impacted by NCAA bylaw 11.4.2. The measure prohibits schools from entering into "a contract for future employment with an individual associated with the prospective student-athlete in any athletics department noncoaching staff position or in a strength and conditioning staff position" two years before a student-athlete's arrival and two years after their enrollment.

Members of the Louisville Cardinals flash the No. 1 sign after they defeated Duke at Reunion Arena to win the NCAA Championship in 1986 From left are Billy Thompson, Milt Wagner, Kevin Walls, David Robinson and Kenny Payne.
Members of the Louisville Cardinals flash the No. 1 sign after they defeated Duke at Reunion Arena to win the NCAA Championship in 1986 From left are Billy Thompson, Milt Wagner, Kevin Walls, David Robinson and Kenny Payne.

Milt Wagner played at Louisville from 1981-86, a run that saw the Cardinals reach three Final Fours and win a national title in 1986. He averaged 14.8 points and a team-high 4.2 assists during the Cardinals' championship season.

Wagner ranks sixth in Louisville basketball history with 1,834 career points. He's tied for second in program history with 144 game appearances and started the last 111 in which he played.

Wagner is taking over a position previously held by former Cardinal Reece Gaines, who according to the team will remain on staff in a video operations role.

"It's an honor for me to return to my alma mater and work alongside my brother Kenny Payne," Wagner said in a statement. "Louisville is my second home and I've always wanted to return here to work with this historic program that I contributed my blood, sweat and tears for as a student-athlete. I'm thrilled to be here with a terrific staff and help this program achieve at the highest level."

After leaving Louisville, Wagner was was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the 1986 NBA Draft. He was a member of the Los Angeles Lakes team that won the NBA championship in 1987-88.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Louisville hires grandfather of DJ Wagner, top 2023 basketball recruit

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