It is a question that has always been batted around by Duke fans and media types alike for years: Can the Duke Basketball program continue to excel once Mike Krzyzewski walks away?
While it doesn’t appear that is a question that is going to require an answer anytime soon it has popped up over the Krzyzewski tenure as he has flirted with the idea of going to the NBA. Ultimately each time Duke’s famed coach as decided to stay in college and at Duke and as a result the Blue Devils are one of college basketball’s blue bloods.
ESPN.com recently took a look at answering the question of which program would have the most difficult time replacing a legend. They looked at John Calipari, Jim Calhoun and of course Krzyzewski. In my opinion Calipari has no business being on the list because he is the coach of one of the most stable blue bloods there is in college basketball.
Kentucky has been all about basketball for decades and proven they have the staying power regardless of who the coach is. Sure they’ve had some down periods but they are always up there so the eventual loss of Calipari to the NBA (errr retirement) won’t spell the down fall of the program.
As for Duke and UConn, well that remains to be seen, though if I have to think that UConn would be in far more serious trouble when Calhoun bolts. They were nothing before he got there and if the program continues its recent downward spiral it will be very difficult to attract a coach to maintain the level of success they’ve enjoyed under Calhoun.
Duke on the other hand, contrary to what Myron Metcalf says, I feel is in good enough shape to survive the post Krzyzewski era.
For starters Duke is a household program and while a large part of that has been the result of Krzyzewski’s hard work and success you can’t name a single blue blood program that didn’t’ have at least one coach that established it as a program capable of sustaining success past their tenure as coach.
Long time writer Al Featherstone wrote about this very concept a while back. He said that each program had its one coach that established it as a program with real staying power. And while there may have been a drop off following their retirement or departure and while it may have taken a few years to bounce back they did just that.
Kentucky has Adolph Rupp, North Carolina has had several coaches including Dean Smith and before him Frank McGuire who either solidified or built on the program. Kansas had Phog Allen and UCLA had John Wooden, and now Duke has Mike Krzyzewski.
It is reasonable to think that once Krzyzewski hangs it up there will be a drop off as Duke searches to replace the irreplaceable. It may take a coach or two to work their way back but Duke clearly has established itself as a sustainable program and one where the right coach can win.
Duke’s success isn’t lightening in a bottle. It isn’t like they were a nobody from a small conference that had a coach have a great run and then they fall off the face of the Earth. Krzyzewski has had Duke winning for the better part of three decades in one of the toughest basketball conferences that just so happens to feature another basketball program that has reached that position of being capable of maintaining long term success over several coaches.
There is no reason to believe that Duke can’t do that. Krzyzewski hasn’t just built a winning program, he has built an entire culture that players and coaches have bought or are buying into. It is unrealistic to think that someone can’t step in and continue to maintain a successful program. Now that doesn’t mean it will be as successful and there may be some drop off but certainly, but not some precipitous plummet.
Duke has become a desirable and profitable name for college basketball and they are not going to go gentle into that goodnight once Krzyzewski hangs up his whistle. The success of the program has become too big an asset to the university, so rest assured that whoever is chosen to replace Krzyzewski will be done so carefully.
The only real question is how long will it take Duke to bounce back from Krzyzewski’s departure and who will be the man to do it. Fortunately we still have some time before that decision has to be made so it is best just to sit back and enjoy the ride and let the future worry about itself.