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Kenny Payne bringing top Duke assistant to Louisville

The Kentucky-Louisville rivalry seems to be on its way to heating back up.

Syndication: The Courier-Journal By Pat McDonogh/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Former Kentucky Wildcats assistant Kenny Payne continues to make a splash as the new head coach of Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball.

Since the hiring was made, rumors have been circulating of Payne potentially bringing in other former Kentucky assistants John Robic and Joel Justus to join his staff, as well as Milt Wagner, the grandfather of top recruiting target DJ Wagner, the No. 1 player in the 2023 class.

While none of these has yet to come to fruition, according to Jeff Goodman, Payne has made a major hire for his staff with Duke Blue Devils assistant Nolan Smith.

After playing at Duke and a five-year professional stint, Smith returned to Durham as an assistant, where he has been rising through the ranks. After starting as a special assistant in 2016, Smith went on to become Duke’s director of basketball operations & player development in 2018, and in April of 2021, was named an assistant coach.

Nolan’s father, Derek Smith, played for Louisville from 1978 to 1982 and was a part of their 1980 national championship team. Nolan has admitted that his late father has played a large part in his life, and the newest Cardinal coach will now look to continue his father’s legacy at Louisville.

While this is a big loss for one of Kentucky’s rivals, it is a big gain for Kentucky’s biggest rival.

According to Jeff Goodman, Louisville “broke the bank” to get Smith and is a sign that the Cardinals are willing to spend money to get back to national prominence.

The Kentucky-Louisville rivalry seems to be on its way to heating back up.