Some basketball programs are just iconic: Duke, UNC, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA, Indiana, and Georgetown and Villanova too.
We hadn’t thought about in precisely these terms, but Duke, UNC and Louisville, all ACC schools obviously, are all three replacing iconic coaches in a two-year span. And all three are doing so with former players. In Louisville’s case, Kenny Payne played for Denny Crum over 30 years ago, but the impulse is similar: reach back to keep a good thing going forward.
This piece from the Louisville Courier-Journal, linked above, suggests that it’s not going to be easy and quotes Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim as saying “everyone loves Jon Scheyer now.”
Payne said this about inheriting an iconic job: “I just want these kids to have the version of Louisville that I experienced. Where it was about love. It was about community. It was about supporting when it was down; enjoying the times when it’s up.”
And that’s well put.
That Louisville is a long way from where the scandal-scarred Cardinals are today, but, to borrow from the movie Gladiator, there was a dream called the Cards. The school is invested. The fans want a good program. Payne is capable. His comments above are wise on many levels too. They should be back soon.
As for Scheyer, we’ve talked about the transition enough and Boeheim is right. It’s easy to appreciate him when he has zero wins or losses and has not had tough things to deal with.
We’ll say this again: Duke fans need to back him to the hilt. We think he’s going to be very good, but he is replacing a legend and cannot be Mike Krzyzewski. We need to make sure he has massive, unquestionable backing, even if - especially if and really it’s inevitable for any coach - he struggles. Of course he will. So did Coach K.
How we react to that is really going to be critical.