Who is Best to Succeed Coach K ??? Installment #2

SDBB - Collage - Amaker, Collins, & Wojo

We continue our series of looking at coaches that can keep the tradition of winning at Duke, after Coach K retires.  Today we are going to be looking at some guys with very familiar names.  They have yet to convince us that they should be seriously considered for the job, but that should change in 3 to 5 years time.

These guys are at varying stages of their careers and have worked together previously.  Both won at least a Championship at Duke, but one other similarity is they have all jumped into their first Head Coaching gig in a Major Conference.

Is it wise to take a first Head Coaching position in a rebuilding Power Conference ???  History has shown that those coaches that start small, honing their skill set out of the spotlight, normally have more staying power.  Coach K’s first job was at Army.  Also, coaches who start small and move up gradually, showing consistent results at every stop, and normally inspire more confidence.  A prime example of this is Bill Self who started at Oral Roberts then coached at Tulsa and Illinois before becoming a champion at Kansas.  At every stop Self had success and there was no doubt he was the right hire for Kansas.

The trouble with starting with a top job is there is no way to go but down. Something James Johnson learned the hard way.  James Johnson was an Assistant Coach at 8 schools before taking the Head Coaching job at Virginia Tech.   Two years later, he is now the Director of Basketball Operations at Miami.

There are some tough jobs, and there are some very bad fits, but there are also some great fits.  Tom Izzo had his first Head Coaching job at Michigan State after being an Assistant there.  Fred Hoiberg had plenty of success in his first ever coaching job at Iowa State before recently leaving to coach the Chicago Bulls.

The following coaches spent over 10 years with Coach K, then decided to chose some really tough challenges.  It is one thing to be an excellent student driver with an Instructor sitting next to you, and then a good driver on your first solo ride.

Is there a Tom Izzo or a Hoiberg amongst this group ??? Time will tell.

Category #2:

“Coaches In Consideration, but Have Not Yet Separated Themselves from the Pack”

SDBB - Collage - Johnny Dawkins

Johnny Dawkins

Bermuda Bob:

Johnny Dawkins was the heir apparent for as long as he sat next to Coach K, turning down oh so many suitors.  Then the Stanford job came up in 2008 and he took it.  I have always wondered if he was nudged a bit out of the nest.  I still think out of respect, his phone rings first.

I honestly never thought his stellar playing years translated out west.

So, while Johnny has had more than a modicum of success at Stanford, it has not kept him out of the annual “Hot Seat” articles.   He is in an incredibly tough recruiting area and it just got worse with the hiring of fellow Duke alum, Bobby Hurley at Arizona State.  Imagine that, two Duke legends going head to head !?!?!?  West Coast kids have other programmes imprinted on them from the crib and rarely have a dozen colleges they are considering.  Then there are the 4.0 kids who expect to to fully matriculate.  So, in contrast we have the current “impedance” of this “one-and-done” era is that kids know coming in, that academics are no push over.   I think that if Johnny wants to maintain a first call position, he has to win more and more, and more impressively at Tournament time.

I hope to hear of another multiple year contract extension for Johnny.  He is under contract thru the end of this coming season.  After that is a reasonable question mark.  He may wish to return to the more familiar east where the parents of kids he looks to recruit still remember him. A Stanford extension, because he has discovered how to win big, or a job someplace else, where he could excel, could double-down on his chances of that first call being Duke’s last.


When Coach K started at Duke, it wasn’t pretty until the great Johnny Dawkins and his recruiting class turned up. Coach K made his first tournament appearance with these guys, in their second season, and that started the Duke tradition of winning. Dawkins’ recruiting class was the catalyst. He was the Leading Scorer and probably Coach K’s First Naismith Player of the Year awardee.

He came back after a professional career in time to see Duke win their 3rd Championship, in 2001, and was at Duke up until 2008, at which point he took the Stanford job. Some people may argue that Duke’s success waned in his absence until the arrival of one of our top contenders, though there is more to it than that.

That’s why Dawkins will always have a special place in the hearts of the Duke fan base, however that does not automatically give him a shoe in. In 7 seasons at Stanford, Dawkins has made the NCAA tournament once, but has been NIT champions twice.

Making the NCAA tournament once in 7 years as a PAC-12 school does not sound great. Another Red Flag is his team’s style of play, which only a die-hard fan would find entertaining.

The good news is Dawkins is making progress in the PAC-12. They had a setback last season after finishing 3rd in conference the previous season. It is not hard to envision that things will change this coming season with the matriculation of a very good 2014 recruiting class, which incidentally might be to Dawkins what his 1982 class was to Coach K.


SDBB - Collage - Wojo

Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski


Steve Wojciechowski or “Wojo” is just getting started at Marquette. From day one everyone knew this was always going to be a rebuilding project.  A tough job, considering that they are in the Big East, even if it is now watered down with the loss of Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame.

Two ways a coach at a new school can impress is by winning or recruiting well. A coach’s number one priority is to win games, and if they can do that from day one, bully for them.  Recruiting is the lifeline of winning.  Get the right recruits you will put yourself in a good position to win.

Suffice to say with a 13-19 record and finishing bottom of the conference (4-14) Coach Wojciechowski has a lot of room to improve.  His first recruiting class was pretty impressive. Snagging 5 Star recruit, Henry Ellenson, from the likes of Kentucky and Michigan State is a remarkable achievement for a first year coach.  Throw in four more recruits, all 4 Star rated by ESPN, and that is a pretty good base. ESPN ranks Marquette as the 10th best recruiting class of 2015.  If he can recruit this well in the first year, what will he do in year two or three when he has established a longer relationship with top recruits ???

Andrew Rowsey cannot play next season as he just transferred from UNC-Asheville where he averaged 20 points per game two seasons there. Rowsey will have two seasons of eligibility starting from 2016. That is a promising future for Wojo.

Wojo has shown he can recruit but can he coach ??? He just needs to show us that he can coach those players.

Bermuda Bob:

Ah, “Wojo” … What Duke fan could not love his floor slapping verve ??? I certainly don’t, and never will.

When “Buzz” Williams unexpectedly left Marquette for Virginia Tech, the phone presumably rang in Coach K’s office, and “Wojo” was the name proffered.  There is no doubt that he will bring his verve, and what he learned sitting next to Coach K to the job of Head Coach.  He certainly has potential and has been reported to have had plenty of luck getting kids he targets.

The problem of getting that Duke phone call is that while he undoubtedly bleeds Duke Blue, he is inexperienced and not yet proven he can coach.  The other fact is that presently, Marquette is as far away from winning as they are geographically in the Big East.

Now that does not preclude him from winning big and consistently, but I still believe he’s a long shot !!!

SDBB - Collage - Chris Colins

Chris Collins


Chris Collins took a job where the team hasn’t made an NCAA appearance since before Doug Collins (Chris’ father) was born.  The team that is a perennial cellar dweller of the Big Ten.  This leads to one of two conclusions:  Collins must have been really desperate to be a head coach or he loves a challenge.

Tex Winter, the father of Phil Jackson’s Triangle, failed to guide Northwestern to the tournament and so did former National Coach of the Year, Bill Foster, the man who preceded Coach K at Duke.  Now Collins is trying to persevere where those guys failed, as a first time Head Coach.

The problem with Northwestern is that they are a Mid-Major type program trying to survive in a power conference. Collins will be sparring against the likes of Thad Matta, Bo Ryan (at least for one more season), Tom Izzo, John Beilein, Tom Crean, and now Mark Turgeon.

On top of that Northwestern is not an easy place to recruit. Collins has only had two commitments from ESPN’s Top 100 recruits and they were north of 50.

The question now is how can a guy with so much stacked against him become Duke’s next coach ???  Simple, the man who gets Northwestern to the NCAA tournament should be able to write his own ticket to anywhere.

Bermuda Bob

Like any Duke fan, I was happy to see Chris Collins be hired to head his own programme and demonstrate what impact all his years with Coach K, as player and Assistant Coach, had had.  I was not so happy that he took an impossible position at a school in one of the elite conferences in America.  The good aspect is that, while Northwestern had formerly been the bottom dwellers of the conference, the Big 10 inexplicably brought in Rutgers to assume that position.

Chris comes from a good coaching lineage, and being one of Coach K’s right hand men has to have given him a great basis from which to work.  The problem is that not even support of Northwestern Alum, Michael Wilbon has helped recruiting true top shelf players.  The positive aspect is that Chris took his kids to a 6-12 in-conference, and a 15-17 overall record, so for those who think there is no light at he end of the tunnel, Chris can retort that he is sure someone has turned the light on as he’s heard the click of the switch.

Chris suffers from the same incomplete resume as “Wojo” does.  He has yet to prove himself by turning Northwestern around as Coach K did so many years ago.  I would say that if he does, and consistently were to assert themselves in the Big 10, that might change my mind, but in a conference of “haves” and “have nots” I just don’t see that happening.   So, I believe he will join other wonderful Duke alums who just don’t have a reason to be included in the discussion of Coach K’s possible successors.  That is not to say that I do not wish him well … I most certainly do !!!


Thanks for the read …

Tomorrow, we discuss more Duke alums, so stick with us !!!

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