Louisville hires Milt Wagner, former Cardinals star and grandfather of No. 1 basketball recruit D.J. Wagner, as director of player development

Louisville has hired Milt Wagner, former Cardinals star and No. 1 grandfather in the country, as the program’s director of player development and alumni relations.

He is the grandfather of rising No. 1 senior DJ Wagner, who is currently unsigned but the subject of an intense recruiting battle between Louisville and Kentucky. Kentucky coach John Calipari coached DJ Wagner’s father, Dajuan Wagner, in Memphis, and new Louisville coach Kenny Payne played with Milt Wagner on the 1986 Louisville national championship team.

“It is an honor for me to return to my alma mater and work with my brother Kenny Payne,” Wagner said in a statement. “Louisville is my second home and I’ve always wanted to come back here to work on this historic program that I poured my blood, sweat and tears into as a student athlete. I’m thrilled to be here with a great team and great help to achieve this program at the highest level.”

Calipari also hired Milt Wagner at Memphis in 2000, resulting in Dajuan Wagner signing with the Tigers.

“My father went to Louisville. Kenny, this is my uncle,” Dajuan Wagner said at a Nike EYBL event in Indianapolis last month. “Kenny shouldn’t be needed to get a job for my dad to work for the university. He has done a lot for this university. …I love Cal. That was my coach. It will be DJ’s decision. I’ll still be happy.”

“My dad loves Louisville,” Wagner added. “And DJ also loves Louisville because his grandpa went there.

“Cal, this is family. DJ has been coming to his camps since he was 5, 6 years old. I would take him to father-son camp and all that stuff. But Cal knows the relationship with Kenny. Kenny was there when we went to camp.”

DJ Wagner, who plays at Camden (NJ) High School, said last month that Arkansas, Syracuse and Seton Hall are also involved, but acknowledged the rivalry between the two domestic programs.

“Just the rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville, I think that’s crazy. I’m still open to any college at the moment, I’m just enjoying the process,” he said. “But I think this rivalry, just Kentucky and Louisville in general, the history behind it, it’s a great rivalry.”

Milt Wagner played in Louisville from 1981-82 to 1985-86 before being the Dallas Mavericks’ second-round pick in the 1986 NBA draft. He has received three All-Metro Conference honors and participated in three Final Fours. He finished his career in the top 10 in program history for points, assists, games played and free throw percentage.

After his career in Louisville, he spent 13 years as a professional player – including an NBA championship run with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1988 – and 14 years as a college coach, with stints in Memphis, UTEP and Auburn.

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