Examining That Inevitable Topic: Who is Best to Succeed Coach K ???


Coach Krzyzewski is 68 years of age, so at some point, no matter how painful the thought, we have to consider that there might be a new coach at Duke within the next 5 years.

If there were a Mount Rushmore of current college coaches, Coach K would be the only figurehead on that mountain. He is the current NCAA champion and has a chance to write his own storybook ending in a field where it never ends … well, when it ends.

USA Basketball do not anticipate Coach K’s involvement past the 2016 Olympics. As a matter of fact they had to convince him to coach the team in Rio, not too strongly mind you, as any coach would be silly to pass that up. He just won his 5th NCAA Championship, has another great recruiting class coming in, and a good start on 2016 Class with the recent commitment of 5 Star recruit, Jayson Tatum.

In January, Coach K, already the coach with the most wins in Division I College Basketball, passed another milestone with 1000 wins. He told the NY Post“There’s an end in sight, I’m going to be 68 next month and it’ll end sooner than later, but hopefully not real soon.”

By the way, Coach K (1018-310) needs 71 more wins to pass Harry Statham (1088-467) for the most wins in College Basketball. All Duke needs to do is win a minimum of 24 games in 3 seasons to effect this.

It is a reasonable assumption that if Duke can win one more championship Coach K will walk away.  These are Coach K’s peers. The guys he will be compared to from drinking establishments to Comment Sections for a long time to come:

  • His mentor, Bob Knight, now a dot in his rearview mirror, was run   out of town when Indiana finally lost patience with him.
  • Adolph Rupp retired about 14 years after his last championship. He was forced into retirement due to Kentucky’s mandatory retirement age of 70, at the time.
  • Dean Smith lost his inspiration and left unexpectedly, retiring 5 years after his last championship, with a couple of Final Fours thrown in between.
  • John Wooden, on the other hand, retired a champion, but then that was a different age and time in College Basketball. The ultimate legendary ending would be to retire just like Wooden.

So, in anticipation of Coach K’s inevitable retirement, doubling down on the “hopefully, not real soon” idea, we will be looking at some ideal candidates to take the reigns of the Duke programme over the next few days. Here is our 1st installment:


Category #1:     “Probably Not Much of a Chance in Hell but An Offer Has to be Made”


Brad Stevens


I think Brad Stevens is one of the best X and O coaches in college basketball.  He is going into his 3rd season with the Boston Celtics.  He has a promising group who should be able to contend for a “Bottom 4” spot in the NBA Playoffs next season.  So yes, this is a really long shot, but this is Duke.  I imagine any serious offer to Stevens will be considered.

What he was able to do in his 5 years at Butler is really remarkable.  Being 38 means that Duke will have continuity for a really long time.  It would be hard to ignore certain Duke oriented coaches but I believe the best man for the job should be hired above all else, and you can’t get any better than Stevens.

Bermuda Bob:

If Brad Stevens were still at Butler, I’d take him more seriously.  I believe that every year he is away from college basketball pushes him further away from ever returning.  He is with a good organization that has made a commitment to him, which I believe will pay them premiums.  They wanted a coach who could re-build their programme, and they got an excellent candidate.  While he formerly could relate to college kids, today he is finding a way to inspire professionals.

Yes, at his age, he would afford the long-term continuity that Coach K has given Duke, but I doubt he is their man.  I believe Duke will stay within their alumni base, and an excellent one it is !!!


Shaka Smart


Yea I get it, Coach Smart just made his big jump to a Power conference. The Jury is still out on him but how can we offer Stevens and not Smart? Both these young coaches arrived on the scene together and held college basketball at their mercy. They created the blueprint of “guys who stayed where they were because they are happy and were not lured by the 1st Power Conference School that came calling and kept on winning.”

Smart has all the strengths of Stevens and the same perceived weaknesses. They can both coach and they get the best out of lesser ranked talent but have never recruited at a high level, not that they needed to to win. Smart is still in college and if in three to five years time, he can turn Texas around, then there will be unreputed proof that he is the best candidate for the job.

If Duke is the best in the business, why not go after the best coach out there? Why limit one’s self to former coaches and Alums? That did not work at UCLA after Wooden left? Nor did it work for UNC after Smith left. Same with Indiana after Bob Knight left, the next coach always find immediate success with the Legend’s players, then that third to fourth year is where the real struggles begin.

If they hire the best coach at the time of Coach K’s retirement, while there are no guarantees in college coaching, this will give Duke the best chance at continuity.  Shaka Smart or Stevens have shown that they are a step ahead of their peers, especially if you set aside Steven’s last season at Butler (injuries !!!).

Bermuda Bob:

I have liked Shaka Smart since I first became aware of him.  He has a great way of relating to his kids.  Who can forget the slide across the floor after a big win at Tournament time ???  I think he will have the ultimate litmus test at Texas.  They will wait for awhile to allow him to acclimate and recruit.  I do not know how he is going to work out, but I’m sure he will give it his all.

I do not think he fits the mold of the Head Coach of one of the greatest programmes of all time.  I am one who believes that first impressions last.  If I did not know who Shaka Smart was, his ill fitting, poorly worn attire would surely turn me off.  Then there’s the day-old stubble look, which looks anything but professional.  Do you think that unpolished look will last ???  I certainly hope not.  Previously, he did not have a huge deep-pocketed alumnus, who will want to have their sartorial way with him, but he does now.  I know, I know, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I have to ask if you can name another coach who was as unkempt.

Would that be enough to disqualify him ???  I just don’t know.  I know I’m a curmudgeon mired in the past when men and women dressed appropriately.  Men dressed sharply and looked like coaches.  To be honest, my favourite was Coach Bob Knight’s Sports Jacket or sweater look.  Shaka will not be a candidate for the job because I think he will do wonderfully at Texas, and I wish him well there …


Thanks for reading …

Tomorrow, we begin to address Duke alums, so stay tuned !!!

Please join the discussion and comment either here or on our Duke Twitter site:


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