Jon Scheyer is going into his second season as Duke’s head coach and while there’s a lot we can’t know without a larger body of work, we can consider some changes that he’s made. Let’s take a look:
- NIL - Scheyer was the first coach to hire a general manager to deal with NIL issues. Schools like Syracuse and (very surprisingly) Kentucky are struggling with exactly how to deal with NIL issues. Jesse Edwards pretty specifically mentioned NIL concerns at Syracuse when he transferred to West Virginia, and John Calipari has apparently not made the sorts of inroads with his boosters that you might have expected.
- Freshmen vs. older players - Scheyer’s predecessor, Mike Krzyzewski, adapted to a new reality around 2011 and began recruiting one-and-done players. It worked brilliantly in 2015 but the reality is that it also made team building much more difficult and freshmen just don’t win as consistently as do older players. Scheyer has said that he would like older teams, which is a rational adjustment.
- Jai Lucas - after a certain point - let’s say 1996, give or take, after Pete Gaudet departed - Mike Krzyzewski began to exclusively hire not just former Duke players but Duke captains as assistant coaches. One of Scheyer’s first bold moves was going outside the Duke program and hiring Lucas, who comes from a prominent Durham family (his father is former Maryland star John Lucas and his grandfather is a legendary Durham educator). We assumed that Scheyer hired him for his recruiting chops and no doubt that was appealing. What we didn't realize is how strong a role Lucas played in developing Duke’s stifling defense this past season. He’s an enormous asset to the Duke program - and we don’t think there's much of a chance that Coach K would have ever hired him.
- Scheduling - Cameron is always a fun place to watch basketball, but honestly, over the last several years, the home schedule has been disappointing. Two years ago, for instance, Duke brought in Army, Campbell, Gardner-Webb, Lafayette, the Citadel, South Carolina State, App State and Elon. There were lots of Duke highlights, but exciting games? Not so much. And most of the big games Duke has had in recent years were on neutral courts. Scheyer apparently realizes the value of big games on home courts and is scheduling accordingly. So this year we will see Arizona in Cameron, and the Devils will return to the McKale Center the following season. Duke will also play Arkansas at Arkansas in the ACC/SEC Challenge, rather than meeting on a neutral court. There are still some tuneups/cupcakes coming, but the basic shift in philosophy, in our opinion, is great.
When you combine all four of these different approaches, it’s clear that while Scheyer is building on the towering foundation that Krzyzewski left behind, he’s not simply maintaining what he inherited from the GOAT. Instead, he’s showing vision and creativity.
And here’s a thought.
At some point, Krzyzewski started thinking about who would take over and of course chose Scheyer. And you have to think that they spent long hours in his office, first with Coach K more or less interviewing Scheyer. Obviously he knows his protegé quite well and many things were understood. But he built this program to last and he wasn’t going to turn it over to just anyone.
Those conversations must have been fascinating.