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Sorcerers’ Apprentices: Players Who Assist Their Coaches At Their Alma Maters

From trusted player to aide-de-camp

State Farm Champions Classic
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 06: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils looks on while flanked by assistants (from left) Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer, Nate James and Chris Carrawell during the State Farm Champions Classic against the Kentucky Wildcats at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on November 6, 2018 in Indianap
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Maybe you have to be a Hall of Fame coach to pull it off. Maybe no one else would think he could fill his bench with assistants who first nurtured their basketball roots under his tutelage.

Come to that, of 45 men’s assistant coaches in the ACC this season, only a dozen even played at the school where they now work. You would think there’d be more, providing insights into campus life and program tradition.

Even fewer 2020 ACC assistants played for their current boss. Half of those native sons are at Duke or Syracuse, where Hall of Famers Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim hold sway.

Boeheim filled the bench with his former players in 2012, before the Orange joined the ACC but after associate head coach Bernie Fine, another, older Syracuse grad, was fired over allegations of sexual assault. Those charges were later repudiated by his accusers, and dropped.

With Krzyzewski, there was media blowback when he went with three former players in 1998. Some may recall, in fact, that critics made a particular point of challenging Steve Wojciechowski’s bona fides as an instructor of big men.

But apparently the former point guard had been paying close attention to Krzyzewski’s teachings. By Wojo’s second year on the staff of the former Army playmaker, postman Elton Brand, who had some innate talents, was chosen ACC Player of the Year and was the top draft pick of 1999.

By our count, eight former Krzyzewski assistants are now head coaches: at Notre Dame (Mike Brey), Harvard (Tommy Amaker), Central Florida (Johnny Dawkins), the NBA’s Utah Jazz (Quin Snyder), Northwestern (Chris Collins), Marquette (Wojo), Pitt (Jeff Capel) and Howard (Kenny Blakeney). Only Brey did not play for K.

Interestingly, other than the two Hall of Famers, the coach with the most former players on his staff is Brey, who’d left Duke by the time Krzyzewski began loading up with alums familiar with his ways.

North Carolina also has two alumni on its coaching staff, although neither played for Roy Williams. Both Hubert Davis and Brad Frederick performed under Dean Smith and, in Frederick’s case, both Smith and Bill Guthridge.

Incidentally, Williams and Boeheim are the sole ACC head coaches who also played at the school they now direct.

(Associate and Assistant Coaches Only, 2019-20 Season)
School Alums Played For
Boston College 0 0
Clemson 0 0
Duke 3 3
Florida State 0 0
Georgia Tech 0 0
Louisville 0 0
Miami 0 0
North Carolina 2 0
NC State 0 0
Notre Dame 2 2
Pittsburgh 0 0
Syracuse 3 3
Virginia 1 0
Virginia Tech 0 0
Wake Forest 1 0