Louisville has hired Milt Wagner, former Cardinals star and the grandfather of the No. 1 recruit in the country, as the program’s director of player development and alumni relations.
He is the grandfather of No. 1-ranked rising senior DJ Wagner, who is currently uncommitted but is the subject of an intense recruiting battle between Louisville and Kentucky. Kentucky coach John Calipari coached DJ Wagner’s father, Dajuan Wagner, at Memphis, while new Louisville coach Kenny Payne played with Milt Wagner on Louisville’s 1986 national championship team.
“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.”
Calipari also hired Milt Wagner at Memphis in 2000, which led to Dajuan Wagner signing with the Tigers.
“My dad went to Louisville. Kenny, that’s my uncle,” Dajuan Wagner said last month at a Nike EYBL event in Indianapolis. “It shouldn’t take Kenny to get a job for my dad to be working for the university. He did a lot for that university. … I love Cal. That was my coach. It’s going to be DJ’s decision. I’ ll be happy regardless.”
“My dad loves Louisville,” added Wagner. “And DJ loves Louisville, too, because that’s where his grandpa went.
“Cal, that’s family. DJ’s been coming to his camps since he was 5, 6 years old. I’d take him to the father-son camp and all that stuff. But Cal knows the relationship with Kenny. Kenny was there when we were going to the camps.”
DJ Wagner, who plays at Camden High School (New Jersey), said last month that Arkansas, Syracuse and Seton Hall are also involved but acknowledged the rivalry between the two intrastate programs.
“Just the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry, I feel like that’s crazy. I’m still open to every college right now, I’m just enjoying the process,” he said. “But I think that rivalry, just Kentucky and Louisville in general, the history behind it, it’s a great rivalry.”
Milt Wagner played at Louisville from 1981 to 1986 before becoming a second-round pick of the Dallas Mavericks in the 1986 NBA draft. He earned All-Metro Conference honors on three occasions and went to three Final Fours. He finished his career ranked in the top 10 in program history in points, assists, games played and free throw percentage.
After his career at Louisville, he spent 13 years playing professionally — including an NBA championship run with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1988 — and 14 years in college coaching, with stops at Memphis, UTEP and Auburn.