Duke basketball fans don’t like to think about the idea of someone other than Mike Krzyzewski being the head coach of the Blue Devils. Coach K is entering his 34th season at Duke and he’s earned the right to coach at Duke for as long as he wants.
Unfortunately, the time will eventually come when Coach K is no longer the leader of the program. He often talks about how he knows it will be time to retire when he no longer has a passion to prepare, and we can hope he continues to have that passion for a long time. However, Coach K admitted that he wondered how much longer he would coach after he finished with the U.S. Olympic team in the 2012 Olympics in London.
According to an interview with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, this past season helped rejuvenate the coach’s passion for the game and give him a new energy, which is a big part of the reason why he agreed to lead Team USA again in the 2016 Olympics. He also says he’ll be coaching at Duke through “at least the 2015-16 season.”
That means this incoming freshman class for the Blue Devils could be very significant. It could be the first group of freshmen to come to Duke in over three decades that may end up finishing their college careers playing for a different coach than when they started.
This isn’t meant to be a pessimistic view of the future of the Duke program. It’s simply a reality that Mike Krzyzewski is 66 years old and he has many passions outside of basketball. At some point, he’ll likely to choose to spend more time focusing on those passions than on coaching at Duke.
It is completely speculation and much will depend on how things play out, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Coach K retire from coaching following the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He will be 70 years old and have likely guided the United States to its third consecutive gold medal in men’s basketball and have well over 1,000 wins at the collegiate level.
If things work out the way Duke fans are hoping, he might even have another couple national championships on his resume by then.
Wouldn’t that be a great way for him to finish on top?
It makes things interesting for Duke in terms of recruiting. In the cutthroat world of signing the nation’s best prospects, we’ll see if other coaches begin to mention the idea of Coach K retiring over the next few years to recruits who are considering the Blue Devils. This wouldn’t exactly be a classy approach, but it’s certainly something that happens.
For Duke’s current class of freshmen – Jabari Parker, Matt Jones, and Semi Ojeleye – they would be on track to graduate in 2017. Many don’t expect Parker to stay at Duke for four years and the verdict is still out on the type of players Jones and Ojeleye will become, but it will be interesting to see if Coach K will be the coach who hugs and congratulates them as they make their way onto the court on senior day at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Even if it ends up being a different coach, Mike Krzyzewski would still deserve a great deal of credit for their success. Whether it’s the class of 2017 or any one after it, Coach K will always deserve some credit because of the incredible program and legacy he’s built.