Blue Devil fans have had a sense of Jon Scheyer for a long time, but now that he’s stepping up to replace iconic Mike Krzyzewski as Duke’s head coach, we’re going to get a very different sense of the man and this piece from Sports Illustrated’s Michael Rosenberg will do a lot to help us understand who he is and where he hopes to go.
There’s a lot in here from family stuff to recruiting philosophy. But the most interesting thing to us is how much he seems to have through the transition and how much he has prepared not just for Duke but for a head coaching position.
Here’s an excerpt to consider:
“Scheyer says that managing people is ‘the majority of the job, as crazy as that sounds. I mean, of course, strategy and X’s and O’s and player development, all that is incredibly important. But a lot of people have knowledge. They can’t necessarily take that knowledge, share it with you, get you to do it, get you to believe in it. That’s what Coach has done the best.’
“That gift is nontransferable. This is probably why many of Krzyzewski’s assistants have struggled as head coaches...Scheyer says that when he interviewed at Duke, “I think that the administration was very curious: Was I just trying to be a Mini Coach K? We’re on the same page, knowing that I need to be different. He doesn’t want me to be him.”
“Three years ago, with his mind on becoming a head coach, Scheyer started meeting regularly with a social psychologist in the Duke business school named Aaron Kay. It is common for coaches to talk to sports psychologists about maximizing athletic performance, but, Kay says, ‘What I teach is not sports psychology. I teach human psychology. [Scheyer] really, sincerely wanted to learn about people and behavior and rationality and what makes regular people tick.’
“Scheyer is already asking questions that many coaches don’t. Is there a way to predict confidence, quantify it, and use that information in recruiting? No matter who he recruits, he will still have to run an organization that, Kay says, will be ‘full of all types\’—young, old, ambitious, burned out, energetic, depressed. Scheyer understands that the key to success is managing all of them.
“‘In sports, you see a lot of data in terms of performance,’ Kay says. ‘But he’s basically saying: ‘Let’s look to see if there’s a science of running an organization.’”
So clearly he’s thinking about this job in very different ways than most of us are, which is appropriate since most of us will just watch a couple of hours of his work per week and he had to perform at a high level, every day and all day. That’s really good to know.
The other thing that comes through here is something that is generally masked and that’s his competitive nature.
One of Scheyer’s great assets is that he is genial and likable. You generally see him smiling - Maryland fans loved to ridicule that about him - and you have to imagine that his sense of optimism and positive nature works to Duke’s benefit when he is recruiting.
But there is a snarling competitor underneath that and not very far underneath either. He’s thinking about not just keeping up standards but how to make Duke even better. It’s not an easy task he’s set himself but clearly, Scheyer is not just more ambitious than most of us probably realize but he is systematically applying his intelligence towards that end.
This is going to be really interesting.