Smith and Luke Hancock – who will both be seniors next season – were named captains of the reigning national champion Cardinals by Pitino, who also introduced new assistant coach Mike Balado to the local media.
Pitino, who talked about those two topics, recruiting, the recent success and the Kentucky Derby, said the picks as captains was pretty easy.
The Cardinals won the NCAA National Championship earlier this month and will have seven key players back with five newcomers.
"Luke has already proven he's an outstanding leader and Russ is going to take over the role of Peyton Siva and we look forward to having them both lead us," Pitino said. "We'll be sort of in limbo, but it will still be a very competitive league. We know the ACC will be very solid (in two years)."
Smith opted to come back to school for his senior season after leading the Cardinals at 18.7 points a game. Hancock was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four and hit 30 of 56 three-pointers in the season-ending 16-game winning streak by the Cardinals.
Pitino called new assistant coach Mike Balado a "perfect fit" for what he was looking for, including a top recruiter and someone familiar with how his system – which includes in-depth scouting – worked.
"We've had great chemistry the past three years with the chemistry of our staff and we took our time with the hiring for this position," Pitino said. "One thing I didn't want to do right now is break in a new assistant. Our scouting is very detailed because we're a pressing team and there's a lot added to it in terms of strategy, and I wanted to find someone who had the humility factor, with no ego, it's just all about team, who understood that we recruit as a team.
"But the most important thing is how he fits in from a scouting preparation standpoint where we didn't have to break in that person. It took awhile to break in Kevin, Kareem and Wyking and we didn't want to go through that again."
Balado served as an assistant coach last season at Florida International under Richard Pitino and helped FIU to an 18-14 record, the school's first winning season in 13 years and fourth-highest win total in school history.
Balado, who is Cuban American and fluent in Spanish, has recruiting roots in the Dominican Republic and is a well-known name in Florida.
"By hiring Mike, who worked for Richard. . .I had the opportunity to watch Mike work on a number of occasions when Richard was preparing for certain games and I watched Mike handle the scout and it was exactly the way we do it, so it was an easy hire for me. And he has all the other great qualities that will add to the chemistry of our staff. Mike is also very fluent in Spanish, being a Cuban-American and he was very good recruiting the Dominican Republic and some of the other places we go into."
Balado said he was humbled to get a chance to work for the newly minted Hall of Famer. He had previously been at High Point.
"This is the mecca of college basketball right now," Balado said. "There's no place better to be and to be quite frank, there's no better person to work for than coach Pitino. I am extremely honored and it's a blessing to be here."