Jon Scheyer’s impending role as head coach will help us find out if Duke or Coach K is the real blueblood
While he’s not the only one in his opinion – and he’s certainly gained the credibility to make such a statement during his 42 seasons as the most famous analyst on NCAA basketball broadcasts. ESPN – Dick Vitale feels compelled to qualify that he “feels very strong” about his opinion of Mike Krzyzewski’s career even though others may disagree.
“I think he’s the greatest coach of all time in college basketball,” Vitale told Sporting News. “Obviously, I have immense respect for John Wooden. . . but it was a whole different time.
Krzyzewski will never match the 10 NCAA Championships Wooden won in his UCLA career. We can say it definitively now with reports circulating that “Coach K” will only serve as Duke’s coach for one more season before retiring. The best he can do, at this point, is six – to go with his all-time records of 1,170 wins, 97 NCAA tournament wins, 35 NCAA appearances and 12 Final Fours, a record.
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For Duke’s assistant coach Jon Scheyer, who would have previously held the reins to succeed Krzyzewski, following this act is a bit like trying to put the final brushstrokes on an unfinished Van Gogh. It’s just paint, isn’t it? Everything seems already in place.
So what could possibly go wrong? A lot. In fact, a lot could go well, but everything could also go wrong. Such is the peril of replacing a legend in any sport.
At Duke in particular, however, the question of the sustainability of the program seems particularly acute, as Krzyzewski has been in place for so long and is responsible for much of the program’s historic success. Which brings up the question: Is Duke a Blue Blood or Coach K?
“He’s not a good coach. He’s not a good basketball coach. There are a lot of good basketball coaches. Mike Krzyzewski is a great coach. He’s in this area, ”retired Durham Herald-Sun sports columnist Frank Dascenzo told SN.
“It’s gonna be damn near impossible to replace him. In all my years of covering the ACC, there has never been a better coach in any sport. He always said of his three daughters, “I don’t want what’s good for them; I want what’s best for them. And he carried that over to the program.
When Krzyzewski was hired to become Duke’s new head coach in 1980, the program had appeared in four Final Fours – three by Vic Bubas, one by Bill Foster – and eight NCAA tournaments in its history. The Blue Devils had finished first in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season standings seven times in 30 years and had a 0.639 winning percentage in CCA games.
Krzyzewski has won the ACC regular season 12 times, the ACC tournament 15 times and has achieved a 0.704 winning percentage in conference games. He may not have built the Cameroon Indoor Stadium, but he turned it into a cathedral of the game.
The amazing Duke network of former players has been dubbed “The Brotherhood” by the program, and it includes NBA All-Stars (Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson), an NBA head coach (Quin Snyder) , NBA general managers (Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon), college coaches (including Bobby Hurley of Arizona State, Chris Collins of Northwestern, Jeff Capel of Pitt and Nate James of Austin Peay) and an army of analysts broadcast (Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Grant Hill among them).
This alumni network will be one of the most important resources for Scheyer – who is also a member having served as an All-American point guard on the program’s 2010 championship team – as he takes on the challenges of becoming the head coach of Duke in the spring of 2022.
“If The Brotherhood doesn’t outlive Coach K to someone who’s in The Brotherhood, then it’s not really a brotherhood,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla told SN. “It’s up to the next coach to make sure that stays in place because it’s a reflection of what Coach K has established in 40 years.
“You can count on all of the successful former student athletes Mike has coached, and it is their responsibility to be stronger than ever. “
WHO IS JON SCHEYER? What to know about Krzyzewski’s replacement at Duke
It is not easy, even for programs with magnificent success stories backed by multiple coaching icons, to maintain their status. Indiana won two titles under Branch McCracken and three with Bob Knight at the helm, but is now in their fifth head coach in 21 years since Knight’s sacking.
Mick Cronin, who guided UCLA to the 2021 Final Four, is the Bruins’ 10th head coach since Wooden retired in 1975. The majority of them were fired despite the NCAA tournament 16s (Steve Alford ), an Elite Eight (Steve Lavin), the Final Fours (Ben Howland) and even an NCAA Championship (Jim Harrick).
North Carolina went through this when Matt Doherty was named head coach in 2000, after two Final Fours in three seasons under Bill Guthridge, but meager recruiting hampered him. The Tar Heels compiled an 8-20 season in 2001-02, and Doherty never got over it. It took hiring an established legend, Roy Williams, to bring Carolina basketball back to the levels Dean Smith had placed it so consistently between 1961 and 1997.
Now Williams has retired, replaced by first head coach Hubert Davis. This means that during the 2022-2023 season, Carolina and Duke head coaches will have a combined year of head coaching experience on their resume.
“They have a great passion for schools, have the support of the guys who are retiring, so those are good points,” Vitale told SN. “One thing they’ve got going for them is the fact that the schools are in North Carolina and Duke, and they’re going to attract some great players.
“They are going to have to have very thick skin because they are going to be criticized left and right. Replacing guys who had 30 winning seasons, who were national contenders every year, is going to be extremely difficult.
“But having an insider, having people on the sidelines who are so loved and respected – these schools love these guys. They are beloved players. I don’t remember hearing bad words about these guys. Now they are obviously going to have to produce. They know that.
Which is not the same as knowing what it will look like. Only a few have explored the frontier where Scheyer is about to travel, and the stories told on their return have been perilous.