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Cardinal Cage Conundrums

So, after reading yet another article about the increasingly wild and wooly world of NIL, in which it talks of incoming college athletes getting seven figure contracts from “NIL Collectives,” a U of L fan’s gotta ask.

If these deep pocketed Jurich diehards, who are beating on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past, are indeed Cardinal fans first and foremost, how about they exert their energy and focus to form an NIL Collective to benefit current and future Cardinal athletes?

Asking for myself. As well as a curious fanbase, anxious to move on in football and basketball, in hopes of getting back to where they once belonged. As it now with women’s hoops and volleyball and swimming and baseball.

It’s a new dawn in college athletics.

Where this NIL stuff goes nobody knows.

But if you don’t jump on board, you be standin’ at the bus stop for a long long time.

* * * * *

Which brings me to Kenny Payne, who if the scuttlebutt is correct, understands the lay of the land, knows that the future is now.

As astute as his hiring of Nolan Smith and Danny Manning are, his savviest move - if it is in fact true — is hiring Justin Perez to be Director of Basketball Ops. As has been reported, though there’s been no official confirmation or announcement.

I know nothing about Perez, other than the minimal info I’ve been told and read.

He is said to be a graduate of Columbia University Law School.

It has been reported that his mother and father are Desiree Perez and Juan Perez. We’re talking the Perezs who are besties with Jay-Z, who are CEOs of Roc Nation.

So, assuming all that’s true as reported, how does it sound to a recruit, when they learn Jay-Z (and perhaps his bride, what’s her name, oh yeah, Beyoncé) may be courtside now and again at the Yum!? And that the Cards are hooked up Roc Nation?

Stay tuned, we’re just viewing these changes in Cardinal hoops by dawn’s early, still dim light. But I’d suggest your shades are clean.

* * * * *

Here’s an idea for future marketing of U of L hoops.

Bring back “The Ville.”

On unis. In ads. On merch.

It’s unique.

It’s iconic.

* * * * *

Which brings me to the curiosity of whom that last hoops assistant might be?

Milt Wagner’s name has been out there since before the beginning of the Kenny Payne Era.

But, it’s always seemed to me — just an observation from afar without any inside info — that KP has wanted Milt on the staff, but in an advisory role, not as an official assistant.

Which brings us back to the obsession with his grandson, DJ, whom U of L will not be able to recruit if Milt has a job in U of L Athletics, other than as that last assistant.

I love Milt as much as any Louisville fan. When he raised his arms in triumph before even making the necessary FTs for victory against Memphis State in the ‘86 regular season finale remains one of my favorite Cardinal memories ever.

But, if KP feels compelled to put Wagner in that last assistant spot only for the possibility of swaying DJ Wagner to matriculate on the Belknap Campus, I’d be most disappointed.

This is a long game.

As I’ve written before, as great a get DJ would obviously be, it will not make or break the future of Louisville Cardinal Men’s Basketball.

First of all, who knows what the kid’s going to do? His dad played for Cal.

Second, sure things, aren’t always sure things.

Many are, of course. But allow me to remind you of these can’t-miss-will-lead-the-team-to-glory absolutely positively gotta haves.

O.J. Mayo.

Sebastian Telfair.

Felipe Lopez.

Shabazz Muhammad.

Emoni Bates, most recently seen spotted in the Transfer Portal.

* * * * *

Here’s how surprising the hire of Danny Manning was to me.

And my Glorious Editor.

Whom I texted right after receiving the notice of a staff announcement last week, asking if he knew whom it was going to be?

“Think it’ll be a shock if it isn’t Milt.”

A few minutes later, he texted, “Check that. It’s going to be Danny Manning.”

Seems as if winning a natty is a prerequisite for consideration.

A good thing.

— c d kaplan