Boeheim, K, Pitino & Roy: Considering Their Careers and ReplacementsPosted by Christopher Kehoe on December 19th, 2013
Often when you think about a team like Duke or Syracuse, what comes to mind tends to be certain trademark characteristics that those schools exhibit and in turn becomes associated with them. For Syracuse, it’s the orange jerseys, the 2-3 zone, and head coach Jim Boeheim. For Duke, people envision Cameron Indoor Stadium with the Cameron Crazies, floor-slapping for a defensive stop, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The fact that these two coaches immediately come to mind is a testament to their staying power and the impact they’ve had on their respective universities and college basketball as a whole. Neither Krzyzewski (66) nor Boeheim (69) is a spring chicken, however, and that poses a serious dilemma for their schools as both are nearing retirement age.
Perhaps not in the exact same boat but not too far behind are Louisville’s Rick Pitino (61) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (63). Neither head coach has been a ‘lifer’ at one program like Boeheim and Krzyzewski, but they remain living legends in their own right. While Syracuse and Duke owe a resounding amount of their present success to their two current coaches, Pitino and Williams have added substantially to illustrious program legacies with Final Fours and championships. Regardless, all four coaches are bona fide Hall of Famers with 100s of wins and at least one national title each. More specifically, the four coaches are responsible for 29 Final Fours, nine national championships, and an unfathomable .760% winning percentage over more than 3,700 college basketball games. If it’s even possible, these staggering numbers do not even do justice on their impact on the sport of college basketball.
When you have four coaches who have a combined total of 3,274 wins at the collegiate level, whomever is tasked with replacing them will have an insurmountable task ahead. Since 2007, Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins has been patiently biding his time to take the reins of the Orange after Boeheim steps down. He is the only successor named for any of the aforementioned greats, and that fact must have the athletic department at Syracuse resting relatively easy knowing there is a contingency plan in place. At Duke, the possibilities seem endless, but the short list runs only a few candidates deep. Most people believe that, of the current assistants, Jeff Capel or Steve Wojciechowski are the most likely successors to Coach K. Capel is the only one with previous head coaching experience, having coached at VCU and Oklahoma, and is considered a recruiting whiz responsible for some of Duke’s recent coups on the recruiting trail. Outside of the program, potential successors range from previous Duke assistant and current Northwestern head coach Chris Collins to Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Other rumored replacements have been VCU’s Shaka Smart, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins, and Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, the last two having both played and coached at Duke.
At Louisville under Rick Pitino, the replacement candidates somewhat overlap with Duke’s whispered choices, with Stevens and Smart the ‘hot’ candidates in the college basketball landscape. However, the possible favorite to replace the man with the Louisville tattoo starts and ends within the family. Rick Pitino’s son, Richard Pitino, is the new head coach at Minnesota and is believed to be the odds-on favorite to replace his father when he retires. Finally, at the presitigous Jordan Brand school in Chapel Hill, successors to Williams seem to be edging towards two of his current assistants, Hubert Davis and Steve Robinson, the latter of whom is pushing 60 himself.
Regardless of the ultimate contingency plans at these core ACC programs — and it changes yearly, rest assured — it will be immensely difficult to fill the void left behind by such titans within the ACC, and the conference may take a while to find its way back to the glory days of these all-time greats.