Wayne Turner, who was a member of two collegiate national championship basketball teams at Kentucky, is now on Rick Pitino's staff at Louisville.
Turner, who played nine years or professional basketball, is now a program assistant with the Cardinals. He was hired at U of L in August.
A player who competed in 151 college games, Turner mentors the U of L players off the court and also has a hand in opponent scouting, game preparation and will assist on-campus recruiting efforts.
Cardinal Authority publisher Jody Demling spent time recently with Turner and did this Q&A with the newest member of the staff:
Cardinal Authority: Well, it's been more than a month. Can you talk about being with coach Pitino again and a member of the Louisville staff?
Wayne Turner: "Almost coming back, it just felt I was still with him. It felt the same as when I was with him at Kentucky. The family atmosphere and all of that is still here. It felt the same.
CA: Does it didn't feel weird at all to be here?
Turner: "Coming back, it wasn't like I felt awkward. I still felt like I was part of the family, even though it was Louisville."
CA: Was coaching always something you wanted to do after your playing career was complete?
Turner: "(Coaching) was always in the back of my mind because coach taught me how to be a coach on the floor. I felt like in games, playing for him especially, I was coaching my other teammates. I always said to myself after basketball, I felt like I should at least give it a try. I remember a guy on our team (at UK) named Steve Masiello putting a bug in back of my head."
CA: So, did you decide to coach right after playing?
Turner: "It just kind of came full circle when I stopped playing. My college career ended in '99 and I stopped playing in '08. I started playing with an ABA team called the Bluegrass Stallions in Lexington. I was going back to finish up my degree and was playing and doing some coaching. I spent a year (2010-11 on UK's staff) with this new rule as an undergrad assistant coaching position."
CA: So, did you like the season on the UK staff?
Turner: "It was a great opportunity and I enjoyed it. The part I enjoyed most was that I was a player there and then I got to see the other side."
CA: Did you learn anything that season?
Turner: "One thing I learned with the guys at Kentucky is that I was once them. Just the understanding about the whole meaning of being a student athlete at Kentucky."
CA: Now, talk about coming here to Louisville at this time? They are coming off a national title, must be a good situation for you?
Turner: "Part of the reason coming back here was that I had an opportunity to be a mentor to the guys. It's one of the aspects of playing college basketball that I wanted to give back. These guys need a mentor. They need someone telling them what they need to take care of off the court, which usually affects you on the court as well. There are things they don't understand that at their age and they need someone to help them."
CA: Every program has somebody like that, right?
Turner: "I was lucky to have guys like Sean Woods come around (at UK) and play with us in pickup. Without me knowing it, he was like a mentor for me. He was around my whole career."
CA: I know you have stayed close to coach Pitino over the years, did you want to get some experience coaching with him?
Turner: "I have always wanted to get some coaching experience from coach Pitino. I just felt like it was the right timing for me to come on and help out. I have been through it. I won a few national championships and a lot of these guys have now experienced that. You don't understand until a few years after you win a national championship what you really did. I hope to help them a little."
CA: What do you want to do for these guys?
Turner: "I want to give them all of the knowledge that I have learned as a basketball player, as a person and as a friend, but also me having experience on the pro level I feel like I can teach these guys how to be pros off the court. It's tremendously hard to be a pro off the court – taking care of things you have to on a daily basis, being there early for class, communicate with coaches and trainers and the most important person to the team, communicating to strength coach. It's a difficult challenge for a college kid."
CA: You were a leader as a point guard?
Turner: "I was a shy and quiet kid and not great at vocal leadership. I was one of those guys that led by example. I had to learn to lead by being vocal . I have talked to Russ (Smith) a lot about that because as a senior you have to take on that responsibility. I hope I can help him a lot."
CA: What's this team like being around?
Turner: "They are a talented group and fun group off the court to work with. They remind me of me when I was a kid. I am enjoying it."
CA: And what about coach Pitino?
Turner: "He's the same person I knew when I was playing for him. He's still competitive and a great teacher. I think he's an even better teacher than when he was coaching me. It's rally amazing for me to see how much he has gotten better as a coach over the years."
CA: So, do you want to be a head coach?
Turner: "At some point in my career, I do plan on being a head coach. When you get into the coaching business I believe that has to be a goal. I want to move up the ladder."
CA: Last question, what's it feel like with those red and black colors – and not blue and white – on.
Turner: "I don't even think about it. I have been so far removed from the whole Kentucky situation that I don't even think about it. I appreciate and respect everything the Kentucky fans have done for me in my career but because I am not from Kentucky – I wasn't raised here – it hasn't affected me at all. I know why I was at Kentucky – I was at Kentucky because of (Pitino)."