The day will come when arguably the most prolific and dominant college basketball head coach of all time, 74 year-old Mike Krzyzewski, will have to hand over his duties to a successor who will obtain the most sought after spot in all of sports; becoming Duke’s head basketball coach. Living in the shadow of Coach K can be a pro & a con. It will come with the high expectation of continuous winning and living up to the gold standard of bringing national championships to Durham.
The Duke program, that has five championships (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, 2015) all under the helm of Mike Krzyzekski, is clearly the premiere program in the sport. Choosing a replacement will not be an easy task. Ensuring donors and alumni all agree on terms are pivotal, but the most important task is getting Coach K to give his stamp of approval.
What’s obvious is that #TheBrotherhood will play a role – meaning someone within the Krzyzewski coaching tree will be the next head coach at Duke. No doubt about it.
Here’s my Top 3 selections for replacing Coach K:
1. Jeff Capel
The former Duke point guard, who is known for get big time recruits to Durham, may be just what Duke needs in replacing K. Capel’s defense, while he was the head coach at VCU, was known to cause complete terror for 40 minutes. His full-court scheme was implemented while he assisted at Duke, where the Blue Devils still run the 2-2-1 trap. Jeff, while leading Oklahoma, coached Blake Griffin (NPOY) and was heavily involved in recruiting Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett and others to Duke. Revamping the Pittsburgh Panthers’ demonstrates his time and willingness to improve a program. Jeff has the ability to culturally connect with young players – distinguishing himself from other candidates. The argument could be made that allowing guys to play to their strengths and the ability to adapt more than running a K system will be a benefit of Capel. Some questioned when he took the Pitt job if Jeff would be Krzyzewski’s replacement, but maybe Capel knows something we don’t…or K plans to coach another 10 years.
2. Steve Wojciechowski
My dark horse pick to replacing K is Steve Wojciechowski. Steve, in my opinion, is the closest thing to Coach K in his ability to demand a team to play defense and not take any plays off. Wojo was known for his stingy defense while at Duke – earning NABC and DPOY honors in 1998. What worries me is the attractiveness of recruits playing under him at Duke. Is the “Wojo” a big enough name for your top 5-star recruits? Fiery on the sidelines and able to demand excellence, don’t sleep on Wojciechowski.
3. Johnny Dawkins
Dawkins was Krzyzewski’s first black recruit. He not only helped save Coach K’s job, but started the trend of black players coming to Duke. Dawkins paved the way for Tommy Amaker, Gene Banks, Grant Hill and other African American players. Prior to All-American J.J. Redick, Dawkins was the school’s all time leading scorer. Being able to connect with black athletes and have an impact in their lives, on and off the court, can’t be understated. Dawkins also has nine years of NBA playing experience. Can you imagine the first black player under Coach K, taking over for the man who recruited him into the program?
The next coach at Duke will come from within the program, but let’s speak hypothetically. Duke’s next coach should have star power, as well as, a highlighted resume and proven track record of winning. There is one Coach who checks both of those boxes and came a rim bounce away from winning the national championship in 2010. Yes, Brad Stevens would set the entire sports world on fire if the replacement for athletic director Kevin White and Coach K signed off on the hire. Appearing in multiple final fours and championship game appearances, this is a no brainer. Coaching Butler to their first Final Four in school history, while at the time being the 2nd youngest coach to appear in a championship game, Brad and Duke would be a match made in heaven. Brad’s only connection to Duke, besides playing against Duke in the 2010 title game, is current Duke head women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson – who coached under Stevens briefly in Boston. Brad Stevens also coaches former Duke and now rising NBA star Jayson Tatum.