Over the last decade and a half or so, Duke fans have gotten to know the story of Nolan Smith and the agonizing loss of his father, Derek.
Derek, a 6-6 forward, played for Louisville in the Denny Crum era, helping the Cards to win the national championship in 1980.
He made the NBA but was waived by Golden State. The Clippers picked him up and persuaded him to move to guard where he excelled.
Smith built a solid NBA career but a knee injury forced him out of the game in 1991 after nine seasons.
He then went into coaching and of course Nolan came along in 1988.
Smith took a cruise with his family in August, 1996 where he had a massive, fatal heart attack on deck. Nolan was just eight.
It’s been very touching over the years to see him remember his father and honor him in various ways. So when he returned to Louisville after the season to work for Kenny Payne, a man who has been like an uncle to him his entire life, who could possibly be anything but happy for him?
He said he was going home. The thing is, Duke will always be a home for him too.