Louisville uses John Calipari’s playbook by hiring Milt Wagner, grandfather of No. 1 recruit DJ Wagner

John Calipari, after he was fired by the Nets 23 games into his third season as an NBA coach, was officially hired as an assistant on Larry Brown’s Sixers staff in September 1999 — but he knew it was only temporary. By then, the man who had previously turned a miserable UMass program into a national power was focused on returning to college via the best job available following the 1999-2000 season. So, with this in mind, Calipari started spending a lot of time just across the Delaware River in Camden, N.J., where a high school phenom named Dajuan Wagner was establishing himself as the most dynamic guard in the country.

Fast-forward to March 2000, Calipari was hired at Memphis. He then added Dajuan Wagner’s father, Milt Wagner, to his staff and offered a scholarship to, and eventually enrolled, Dajuan Wagner’s best friend, Arthur Barclay. Three months later, surprise surprise, Dajuan Wagner committed to Memphis, where he played one season before being selected by the Cavaliers with the No. 6 pick in the 2002 NBA Draft.

So Calipari and the Wagners go way back.

And it is that strong relationship with the family — in addition to Calipari’s relationships with everybody close to the Wagners, among them Knicks executive William Wesley, whom Dajuan Wagner calls “Uncle Wes” — that has forever made Calipari, now the coach at Kentucky, the perceived leader to eventually land Dajuan Wagner’s son, DJ Wagner, who is the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2023, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

But now, who knows?

That’s because Louisville announced Tuesday that it has pulled a page from Calipari’s old playbook and hired Milt Wagner, DJ Wagner’s grandfather, in a director of player development and alumni relations role, where he’ll work for his alma mater and beside a friend — first-year Louisville coach Kenny Payne — with whom he’s been close since they were teammates on Denny Crum’s 1986 national championship team.

Author: Lucy Green