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Nolan Smith Comes Back Home

Spoiler Alert: The only addition to Coach Kenny Payne’s staff announced at U of L Basketball’s Monday press conference was the one we already knew about, Nolan Smith. Meaning the following contains essentially no breaking news about other members of the staff or roster changes.

Early in the presser, one anxious scribe, poised to jump the gun — guilty — inquired, when we might expect announcements about others on the staff?

To which fellow, KP gently chided that the question was premature, saying, “Good timing. I just hit a home run.”

Sufficiently chastised, allow me this observation: Nolan Smith checks all the boxes.

In fraternity parlance, he’s a legacy. He lived in Louisville until he was six, attending preschool at The Temple, then summered here through his youth. His father, you may have heard, was a starter for U of L’s first title team in ‘80.

He’s intelligent and articulate. He’s a family man with an engaging wife Cheyna, a daughter and son.

To this point, he was tutored in his coaching career by the GOAT, at Duke, where Smith was an All-American and national champion.

Sitting in the jam-packed conference room, the inner Cardinal diehard in me had goose bumps.

Actually, truth be told, what I felt was verklempt.

This whole Kenny Payne/ Nolan Smith reformulation of University of Louisville Basketball Just Feels Right.

The most heard words out of both Payne’s and Smith’s mouths: Home. Love. Family.

* * * *.*

This and that about the situation and hire.

Apparently the only contact specific to this position after Payne’s hiring was a text to Smith, “Are you ready?”

Discussions commenced and were obviously resolved forthwith after Duke was eliminated in the FF. The answer, obviously, “Yes.”

They had talked about the possibility of this happening through the years.

* * * * *

Smith indicated U of L will be recruiting the “best players in the country.”

More important, he implied from the reactions of prepsters seeing him over the weekend in Cardinal gear, as well as KP’s reputation, that U of L is in the mix once again.

Can I get a witness?

* * * * *

Payne has not sought Smith’s input yet on other potential staff members.

* * * * *

Smith just arrived in Louisville today.

His first stop was to visit his father.

* * * * *

Smith’s dad Derek died when NS was eight. “I’m blessed to have a lot of uncles.”

He specifically mentioned William Wesley, who has “meant everything to me.”

* * * * *

Asked how close he came to playing for U of L out of high school, Smith replied, “Very close.”

* * * * *

Questioned about U of L’s players already on the squad, he considers them “tough and talented” and advised Coach K that after his scout. He specifically mentioned El Ellis, saying the players are better than last season’s results.

* * * * *

Asked the primary attribute he believes he can bring to the program, Smith said, “Preparation.”

* * * * *

Smith said “Louisville basketball is the best of the best.”

* * * * *

During his introductory part of the press conference, Payne didn’t really answer when asked if he was looking for any specific kind of players or positions to fill out the roster.

Just fellows who will play “fast and aggressive.”

Payne indicates he would like all members of last year’s team to stay.

Questioned specifically about Wheeler, KP mentioned they have talked, he wants the center to stay, and that “it’s his decision.”

* * * * *

Louisville Basketball appears headed back to where it once belonged.

— c d kaplan