The big news coming out of Krzyzewskiville this week is the news that Coach K will return to coach the Olympic men’s basketball team. However, lost in the conversation is this little nugget from the coach himself…
I don’t think anybody should coach the (Olympic) team unless they’re still coaching. You’ve got to stay sharp. I’m coaching in the best league against the best competition and the best players that I can. Doing that, it becomes easier.”
This means that the 66-year-old Duke coach is committed to coach the Blue Devils at least through 2016.
Of course when you’re talking about Krzyzewski’s eventual retirement, then the conversation has to turn to his replacement or as I like to call it, the greatest mystery in college basketball.
Unlike a lot of big-time coaches, there is no obvious hand-picked successor for Coach K…at least that we know of.
In fact, if you asked me to rank who has the best shot, I would literally be pulling that ranking out of my ass.
Yet, we all know I love pulling things out of my ass, so here is a list of the top possible replacements for what will be one of the most highly sought after jobs in America.
Note: This list is unranked.
For a long time, Amaker looked like a frontrunner to replace Coach K. The former player/assistant landed a head coach job at Senton Hall after nine years on Coach K’s bench and showed some real signs of success, then again during the early years at Michigan. However, unable to lead the Wolverines to the NCAA Tournament, Amaker’s stock fell when he was fired in 2007.
However, his stock went back up after taking one of the worst jobs in college basketball (Harvard) and leading the Tide to back-to-back NCAA Tournament bids. This past season Harvard earned its first Tournament win ever and heading into the 2013-14 season, the Tide is expected to be a top-25 team.
Obviously if Amaker really does want to be considered for the Duke job, he’s going to eventually need to leave Harvard and show he can deliver at a “BCS” school.
Like Amaker above, Dawkins is a former player/assistant for Coach K, but what Dawkins has that Amaker doesn’t is nine years of NBA experience.
I actually had Dawkins the leader for a long time, however, since taking over the Stanford job in 2008, he has yet to turn the Cardinals into a consistent winner in a weak PAC 10 (or whatever it is now) conference. He’s produced just three winning seasons in five years, although he did win the NIT championship in 2012.
The stage is set this year for the Cardinals to finally reach the NCAA tournament under Dawkins. If he fails though, he could struggle to hold on to the job much longer. The fact is, if he can get this team into the tournament on a regular basis and make some deep runs, it could propel Dawkins to frontrunner status.
Another former player/assistant, Collins is the son of NBA coach Doug Collins and he actually has non-Duke coaching experience on his resume. He was an assistant for one season with the Detroit Shock and he worked under Tommy Amaker at Senton Hall for two. He eventually made his way to Duke, where he sat next to Coach K for 13 seasons, eventually becoming ‘Associate Head Coach’.
His name has been mentioned for a ton of head coaching jobs over the years, but he finally accepted one, becoming the man in charge at Northwestern. Here’s the deal, if Collins can win here, then he can win anywhere. The Wildcats have never appeared in the NCAA Tournament and they haven’t won a Big Ten title since the Great Depression.
Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski
If Duke fans got to decide who would be the next head coach, I think Wojo would be the clear winner. The spunky former point guard/floor slapper has been an assistant coach since 1999, eventually being promoted to associate coach in 2008.
Personally, I’m not sold on Wojo. I’ve been less than impressed with his coaching job with Duke’s big men. Second, I just don’t see anyone getting the job without some kind of head coaching experience. If Wojociechowski wants to be considered, he’ll need to escape Durham.
Unlike most folks on this list, Brey is a former assistant to Coach K (for nine seasons), but not a former player. However, unlike Duke’s former players/coaches, Brey has proven to be a consistent winner as a head coach. At Delaware he led the Blue Hens to two NCAA Tournament bids and in 13 seasons at Notre Dame, he has led the Irish to the post-season every year he’s been there (nine NCAA Tournament bids, four NIT bids).
However, the knock on Brey is that he’s a great regular season coach, but has struggled to advance his teams deep into the tournament. He’s also going to be approaching 60 years of age when 2016 comes around. One would think Duke will be looking for something long-term.
Yet another former player/assistant, Capel went a different route, building his resume outside the Duke program. He showed some success as the head coach at VCU, leading the Rams to one NCAA Tournament bid. He took over at Oklahoma where he led the Sooners to the Elite Eight in 2009. However, he went just 27-36 the following two seasons and was fired.
Capel was brought back to Duke in 2011 as an assistant, but I wouldn’t put him near the top of any list to replace Coach K. Like Amaker and Dawkins, when given the opportunity to coach at a major institution, he didn’t deliver the goods, so he still has a lot to prove.
He was once an early favorite to be a successor back in the late 90′s, but the shine has really rubbed off and at best he is an extreme long shot.
After a four-year assistant stint at Duke, he became the head coach at Missouri. He was hailed as a savior, leading the Tigers to four straight NCAA Tournaments and a trip to the Elie Eight in 2002.
However, the wheels quickly fell off as a slew of minor violations begin to pop up. He resigned in 2006. Since then he has bounced around the D-League (head coach for the Austin Toros) and the NBA (as an assistant). This past season, he took an assistant gig for CSKA Moscow (Russia). I could be wrong, but it’s tough seeing a Russian job leading to a job at Duke.
One of the greatest Blue Devils of all-time and the only good thing about the movie Blue Chips, Hurley never really showed any interest in coaching after his five-year NBA career ended. Yet in 2010, he joined his brother as an assistant at Wagner. After a one-year stop over at Rhode Island, Hurley was offered and accepted the job at Buffalo.
With his coaching pedigree and two national title rings, there is no doubt that if Hurley is successful as a head coach, he could move up to the top of the list among Blue Devil nation.
While it is unlikely Coach K’s replacement will come from outside the Duke family, if there is one coach in American who could be the exception, it would be Stevens. A former point guard, he’s produced a solid 166-49 record since becoming the head coach at Butler in 2007. He’s led the Bulldogs to two NCAA title game appearances.
The fact is, until a former Duke player/assistant proves he can be a winner as a head coach, I’d probably argue that Stevens is the slight favorite. He’s the golden boy of college coaching right now and is still just 36 years of age. If there is one guy who could walk into Durham and handle the pressure of following in the foot steps of Coach K, he is that guy.
EXTREME OUTSIDE SHOTS
Jay Bilas - Why not? He once was an assistant and if there is one man who could just walk off the street and coach a team, it’s the smartest analyst on TV, right?
Jay Williams - I think he’s a good analyst, but not great. He would need some time on the bench.
Greg Paulus - He’s currently on Thad Matta’s staff at Ohio State, so he’s getting his training in, but he’s years away from ever being a head coach.
Christian Laettner - He’s expressed interest in coaching one day, but it’s one thing to say it, another to start doing it. Yet, that doesn’t keep Duke fans of dreaming about a future Hurley/Laettner coaching staff.
Shane Battier - One of the smartest Blue Devils I ever had the privilege to watch. When he played, it was like having a coach on the floor. The problem…he’s still playing.
Nate James - He joined the staff in 2008, but so far is best known for failed recruiting targets. Coach K would need to coach another dozen years for James to even get the experienced needed to be consider as a replacement.
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