Nolan Smith Joining Coach Kenny Payne’s Staff As Assistant Coach

Duke Assistant Coach Nolan Smith is coming home. The son of legendary player Derek Smith is the first assistant coach hired by Coach Kenny Payne. He will hold the title of associate head coach.

CSZ has been reporting on the likelihood since Coach Payne was hired and we were told last night that this was happening likely today. Site founder Jeremy Wahman tweeted this out just a little while ago.

Before joining the coaching ranks, Smith was a player for Coach K at Duke. As a player, he was highly successful, earning All-American honors and being named the 2011 ACC Player of the Year. In 2010, he helped lead Duke to the NCAA championship.

He was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers and played 2 seasons in the NBA and 3 seasons elsewhere professionally before deciding to get into coaching in 2016. Smith went back to his Alma Mater and became a special assistant under Coach K. In 2018, he earned a promotion to Director of Basketball Operations and player development. Then, in spring 2021, he moved to the bench as an assistant coach.

Now, Coach Nolan Smith comes full-circle, to his father’s alma mater and to the city of his birth. It is not insignificant that he is the first official assistant hired by Coach Payne and has the title of associate head coach. Smith has worked his way through the ranks and now seeks to help restore his father’s alma mater and the university of his birth city to the glory it once had.

Smith is well-liked and well-respected by NBA players and by other coaches around the country. Coach K saw Smith’s ability to connect with others and his knowledge of the game of basketball and helped nurture him into the coaching ranks. There was an opportunity for Smith to join Penny Hardaway at Memphis, but he chose to remain at Duke and eventually got to the bench. Now, after one season on the Duke bench (and a successful one at that) Nolan Smith brings his knowledge, work ethic, and skill to help rebuild the Cardinal program. There is no doubt Nolan Smith has all the ability to help Coach Payne get the program back to national prominence quickly. I have no doubt Duke is lamenting the loss of a brilliant, young, up-and-coming coach.

Welcome home Coach Nolan Smith. We always believed you would look way better in red and black and we were right.

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