Who Will Succeed Coach K At Duke?Posted by nvr1983 on May 12th, 2011
Over the weekend, Duke announced that recently fired Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel had been selected to be its newest assistant coach. The announcement itself was noteworthy as Capel, who just two years ago was considered one of the hottest names in coaching, had fallen to the point where he was forced to take an assistant coaching position. The question of how Capel had fallen so quickly could be answered in several ways (most notably the departure of Blake Griffin and the disappointing performances of McDonald’s All-Americans Willie Warren and Tiny Gallon), but remains mysterious.
Capel’s return to Durham also raises the more intriguing question of who is next in line to succeed Mike Krzyzewski when he eventually decides to retire, a possibility that was made more clear recently with the retirement of Gary Williams, one of his chief rivals in the ACC at nearly the same age as Krzyzewski. The first question is whether the Duke administration will want to pursue an internal candidate or would look at outsiders. We imagine that Krzyzewski would make a strong push to hire an internal candidate or at least someone with strong ties to the program, but the performance of most of the disciples from his coaching tree has been underwhelming to put it lightly. There have been a number of prominent head coaches (Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, Johnny Dawkins, Quin Synder, and Capel) who have coached under Krzyzewski during his time at Duke as well as two others serving as associates alongside Capel (Steve Wojciehowski and Chris Collins).
If we are operating under the assumption that Duke will try to stay “in-house” for their next coach it is worthwhile taking a look at each of the potential candidates:
- Brey: The lone remaining bright spot on the coaching tree. Brey is the most decorated of the former assistants and has already won 337 games as a head coach including 238 during his 11 seasons coaching at Notre Dame. Brey has led the Fighting Irish to seven NCAA Tournament bids in 11 seasons including a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2003 while being named Big East Coach of the Year on three occasions including this season when he also picked up several awards as National Coach of the Year. One of the potential knocks against Brey is that he never played for Krzyzewski while every other internal candidate did.
- Amaker: Probably the second most successful internal candidate. Amaker appears to have it all: the Duke pedigree, time coaching at a big-time school, and coaching success. Unfortunately the coaching success has come after two unsuccessful stints at name schools. After a mediocre performance at Seton Hall, Amaker landed a job at Michigan where he struggled to turn around a program that had every opportunity imaginable to become a contender in the Big Ten, but he was never able to do so. While Amaker has been successful at Harvard it is worth noting that he has yet to win a
conference titleNCAA berth from the Ivy League (technically, Harvard and Princeton were co-champs in 2010-11).
- Dawkins: One of the greatest Duke players ever, Dawkins was considered to be on the short list of successors as recently as a year or two ago based on having spent a decade on the Duke sideline under Krzyzewski, but the shine appears to have worn off of Dawkins after three middling seasons at Stanford where he has struggled to stay above .500 (49-48, .505). While Dawkins will certainly be a contender for the job, his inability to put together a successful team in what has been a mediocre conference the past few years could be a warning sign for the Duke administration.
- Snyder: A decade ago he appeared to be the most likely successor to Krzyzewski. After the 2002 season, Snyder was the hottest young coach in the country. He was coaching at one of the premier program in the country (Missouri) and had taken the Tigers to three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances including the Elite Eight that season. Unfortunately it went downhill quickly from there as a series of scandals and disappointing seasons led to him being forced out of Missouri. He was left to spend the next three seasons coaching in Austin (NBDL) before getting a job as an assistant for the Philadelphia 76ers. Snyder may get back to coaching high-level college basketball some day, but it won’t be in time to get the Duke job.
- Capel: Two years ago Capel would have been a solid candidate, but like Snyder before him, Capel has underperformed lately although he didn’t leave his Big 12 coaching position in as ignominious a manner as Snyder did. Capel also ended up in a much better position to take over for Krzyzewski as his next-in-command at Duke instead of being relegated to the NBDL. Although Capel has the least experience working under Krzyzewski of any of the current associates/assistants he is the only one with any experience as a head coach and while the last two years have been tough on Capel he had a solid record before that even if you can attribute a lot of his only trip to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament to having Blake Griffin.
- Collins: One of the two associate head coaches at Duke, Collins appeared to be the most qualified of the staff before Capel joined and it seemed to show as he was the one often assigned to deal with sideline reporter questions at the beginning or end of a half. He also has the family pedigree with his father (Doug Collins) being one of the most prominent coaches in the NBA in the past 25 years. Unfortunately you don’t get to inherit head coaching experience from your father so we would be shocked if Duke handed over the keys to one of the most prestigious programs in sports to an unproven 35-year-old.
- Wojciechowski: An even more unlikely choice than Collins. Wojo might get a very good head coach position in the near future, but we cannot imagine Duke handing over the program to the mercurial former point guard. Of course we would love to see it just to see the reaction from fans of opposing teams as Wojo is one of the few individuals who could inspire more hatred towards Duke than Krzyzewski does.
It remains possible that Duke could go outside of its immediate or associated family, but it is hard to imagine who they would target. If they were to go outside it seems like the potential candidates would need to fit the following characteristics: (1) successful–at least an Elite Eight appearance or consistent Sweet Sixteen appearances; (2) young–would probably have to be around 45 or younger because Duke probably would not want to be searching for another coach in the next 10 years; and (3) be seasoned enough to handle the national spotlight that Duke enjoys. Based on those characteristics they would probably focus on someone like Brad Stevens, Sean Miller, or Mark Few. While all three have continually reiterated their commitment to their current programs we have a hard time seeing a coach not seriously considering the opportunity to become the head coach at Duke (unless we are talking about someone like Roy Williams). This is not to say that every coach at a less prestigious program would jump a the chance to take over at Duke, but it would be something that nearly every one would have to seriously consider.
Although there does not appear to be a clear-cut favorite there are a couple of names that stand out. From the internal candidates, Capel would appear to be the best choice as he is young, has built a successful program (at VCU), and has led a team deep into the NCAA Tournament (at Oklahoma). Brey would be perfect except that he just turned 52. Assuming that Krzyzewski will retire in the next five years (he would be pushing 70 at that point), Brey would be 57 and would most likely have another 10 years of coaching in front of him. It is possible that he could coach beyond that, but we cannot see the Duke administration taking the chance that they would have to find another coach after a relatively short period of time. As for the external candidates, Stevens appears to be the ideal choice as he seems to have it all with back-to-back national championship game appearances, youth (just 34 years old), and what appears to be a spotless resume. There will always be the coach du jour (Shaka Smart presently), but we doubt that Duke would get suckered into someone who could be a one-hit wonder when they could essentially have their pick of the litter. While the decision on who should be selected to succeed Krzyzewski is not imminent, it is something that Duke fans and college basketball fans in general, should be cognizant of as Krzyzewski’s days on the sidelines are winding down.