As we start another Duke season, we are also one season closer to the retirement of, in my opinion, the greatest coach in college basketball history, Mike Krzyzewski. Say what you will about him, but he is the all-time leader in wins for Division I basketball and has won 4 National Championships, been to 11 Final Fours, 12 ACC Regular Season Championships and 13 ACC Tournament Championships. By the time he does step away, I believe he should have over 1,000 wins for his career. He will leave behind massive shoes to fill. But who will fill them? You saw at UNC when Dean Smith step away, it was hard to replace him. Bill Guthridge was there for only three seasons, his first season, he had several starters back from the previous season that went to the Final Four and included future NBA players Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter, as well veteran point guard Ed Cota. In 1999, they were upset by Weber State in the first round, and in 2000, made a surprise run to the Final Four and then he retired. We saw what happened under Matt Doherty. It wasn’t until they hired Roy Williams they got a guy that would be there for more than just a few years. Will this be what happens with Duke or will we hire a coach that will be there for the long haul?
Let’s look at the potential successor’s to the throne. First we’ll start with coaches on the current staff.
Wojo was a fan favorite during his time as a player for his toughness and intensity. He has been on the Duke coaching staff since 1999 and an associate head coach since 2008. He has also helped Coach K with helping the US team prepare for the Olympics. In my opinion, he would probably be the least “qualified” of the big three assistants to take over. While he is an associate head coach, and helps with recruiting, he gets a bad rap for being the big men coach. To my knowledge he has not interviewed for any head coaching positions (he easily could have turn down some because he wants to remain at Duke. Can you blame him in that case?). I think the next Duke coach needs to have had his own program for at least some time before taking the reigns. Not because they need to pay their dues, but so they can have that experience and be better prepared which leads me to..
Collins became an assistant coach in 2000, and like Wojo, associate head coach in 2008. He also has helped with USA Basketball. He has been rumored to be on lists for head coaching positions across the country. Collins, father, Doug – head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, says his son is ready for his program. Again like with Wojo, I believe he needs to have his own program first before taking over at Duke. The only one currently on the staff who has is…
Of the coaches on the staff now, he is the only one with experience of having his own program at both VCU and Oklahoma where he did have some success (and some guy named Blake Griffin). He saw his share of troubles in his final season at Oklahoma, but a lot of that I put on the players themselves. There’s only so much a coach can do (see Honey Badger). Capel has shown he can recruit and win. I think, of those on the staff now, he would be the most qualified to take over and Duke not skip too much of a beat.
Now there are a couple former assistants who currently do have their own program. Would they be willing to come home, so-to-speak, and coach at Duke?
Dawkins is one of the greatest players in Duke history and quite possibly the most important recruit Duke has ever had. He left, somewhat surprisingly, in 2008 to become the head coach at Stanford. I say surprisingly, because many, myself included, felt he would be the one to take over when Coach K retired. Coach K seem to find the fountain of youth with USA Basketball and Dawkins may have felt it would be another 7-10 years before he would have a shot. I think it was a wise move for him to take on his own program, in a fairly major conference (let’s face it, PAC-10/12/84 is not one of the strongest basketball conferences) and at a school that has had success in basketball before. It has taken him a few years, but last year Stanford won the NIT Championship. A big step up for a program that the previous two season finished below .500. And this year they should be in contention to make the NCAA Tournament. Dawkins has the program on the way back up.
Brey was an assistant under Coach K from 1987-1995. He left to take over at the University of Delaware, where he guided them to two America East Conference Championships and two trips to the NCAA Tournament. He had a winning record of 99-51 while at Delaware. From there he took over at Notre Dame where he has a winning record of 259-130 and numerous trips to the NCAA Tournament. He also has been named Big East Head Coach of the Year twice. Like Dawkins, he has taken over a program that had a dry spell of success and gotten them back on the right path. He signed a 10 year contract extension this past summer, but once has to think with the move to the ACC that he would be a prime candidate to take over for Coach K.
We’ve looked at those that are currently on the staff, and have been on the staff, but gone on to have their own programs. One has to wonder, would Duke hire outside the Duke family? The likelihood is probably very slim, as not only would Duke want someone who is familiar with the inner-workings and culture at Duke, but someone who the everyone can embrace as one of their own. Coach K, I believe, will have a very big say in who takes over when he steps aside. Is there anyone outside the Duke family they would possibly consider? I believe there is one and he’s been mentioned before…
We know know the success he has had at Butler (first hand I might add). He has shown that even at a mid-major he can recruit and win. Imagine what he could do at Duke? He also is a young coach (only 36) so he probably would be in his early 40s when Coach K retires. That would still give him the potential to be able to be at Duke for 25-30 years, ensuring stability to the program for years to come. Stevens is also a very classy coach, so we wouldn’t have to worry about any potential black marks on the program like other coaches that would.
So who would I choose to become the next head coach at Duke University? While I would love someone from the Duke family to take the reigns, I believe Brad Stevens would be the best choice. He would be able to keep the family atmosphere that Coach K has built during his time and he would also be able to keep up Duke’s reputation of a hard working, clean program.
I know that when Coach K does retire, there will be A LOT of people wanting the job. It’s DUKE. Everyone hates them, but everyone wants to be them. I’m confident we will not hire someone like a John Calipari, who will undo all the handwork Coach K has put in over the last 30+ years in a matter of months by turning Duke into One-And-Done U.
Hopefully this is a decision that is still many, MANY years away. Who would you want to take over at Duke? Discuss in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.