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Louisville hires ex-star Milt Wagner, grandfather to top recruit D.J. Wagner

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Milt Wagner enters the room where Kenny Payne will be announced as the new head coach of the Louisville basketball team at the KFC Yum Center.March 18, 2022Kennypayne 16
Credit: Scott Utterback/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Milt Wagner, a former star guard at Louisville and the grandfather to top recruit D.J. Wagner, was announced Tuesday as the school’s new director of player development and alumni relations.

Wagner won a national championship as a senior in 1986 and marks the fourth new Cardinals hire welcomed by new head coach Kenny Payne (hired in March), who was Wagner’s teammate as a freshman in that title-winning campaign.

The intrigue around Wagner’s addition at his alma mater surrounds his grandson D.J., who is the nation’s No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2023 in the 247Sports composite rankings. The younger Wagner, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, plays at Camden (N.J.) High School — the same school as his grandfather.

“It’s an honor for me to return to my alma mater and work alongside my brother Kenny Payne,” said Wagner 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.”

The elder Wagner, 59, followed his four-year career as a Louisville player by playing parts of two NBA seasons in the late 1980s, winning an NBA title with the Los Angeles Lakers as a rookie in 1987-88. He later spent 14 years working at a trio of schools — first as a basketball operations coordinator at Memphis (2000-06), then as an assistant coach at UTEP (2006-10) and Auburn (2010-14).

In addition to Wagner, Payne has added assistant coaches Nolan Smith, Josh Jamieson and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Famer Danny Manning in the past two months since taking over the Cardinals’ basketball program.

The younger Wagner is also considering Kentucky, as Wildcats coach John Calipari coached his father, Dajuan Wagner, at Memphis.

–Field Level Media