Earlier today we linked to a report about Brad Stevens moving into the front office and the long-running speculation that Duke would tap him to replace Mike Krzyzewski when he decided to retire.
Well scratch that: looks like Jon Scheyer is already lined up for the job and will spend this year as coach-in-waiting.
This makes sense and also gives us a chance to say something we’ve held off on saying for a long time and then a couple of other things too.
Who’s-next-at-Duke has been clickbait for more than a decade. We tried hard to refrain from it because even though obviously Coach K can’t go on forever. He has demonstrated an incredible will and staying power but he’ll be 80 in five years and there’s a limit for any man.
So we’ve wanted to clear that up for a while but it wasn’t easy to say without getting into the whole idiotic (until now) debate.
On to a couple of other things.
Coach K has often talked about getting better and learning from other people and we’re sure he learned from his long-time rival and then friend Dean Smith.
When Smith retired, he did it very abruptly and put UNC in an awkward position where they really had no choice but to hire his long-time assistant Bill Guthridge.
Guthridge did well certainly but he was not cut out to be a head coach and the program started to slide under his watch. Then Matt Doherty took over and drove it in a ditch.
Lesson #1 for K: plan ahead. Lesson #2: don’t hire your lead assistant just because of loyalty. It’s a major change and it’s probably wise to hire someone younger who is ready to crank things up than someone roughly your own age who no longer really has any interest in being a head coach. Call it Lesson #3.
We’re also quite sure he paid attention when Syracuse named Mike Hopkins coach-in-waiting and then let him dangle when Jim Boeheim decided to go a few more years. Hopkins left for Washington and Syracuse has no coach-in-waiting.
Lesson #4: don’t make this a long process. Have a deadline in mind and stick to it.
There are probably more lessons than those obvious ones and maybe we’ll see what they are later.
The one other thing that has always stuck in the back of our minds is this: when Krzyzewski took over for Bill Foster, other than Gene Banks, Kenny Dennard and Vince Taylor, he had no significant talent. He said later that when he left, he wouldn’t leave his successor in that position.
The changes in college basketball in the last two years alone have been immense and it’s harder to honor that than it was earlier. But the best way to honor it is to have trained your successor and to be sure that he has the ability to recruit. Clearly Jon Scheyer does and he should be able to draw his own talent. He’s been doing it for several years.
And this can’t be overlooked: not only is Scheyer a skilled recruiter but generally speaking, he’s well-liked and Duke fans love him. He was hugely capable when he was shifted to point guard just over a decade ago, leading Duke to the 2010 title over Butler. We used to watch him and see how long he went between mistakes. There were times that it seemed to be forever.
He was also the guy who made sure that Tre Jones was prepared for his stunning success last season in Chapel Hill, telling him to anticipate a time when he would need to miss a free throw - and then where the ball would most likely go.
A lot of thought and observation preceded the job offer and we can’t imagine a better choice frankly.
It’s likely to be regarded as one of Coach K’s last brilliant moves.