Who is Best to Succeed Coack K ??? Installment #3

SDBB - Collage - Quin & Tommy

Our next list of coaches are guys who went big time early and failed, then went somewhere else and rebounded. Who doesn’t deserve a 2nd chance or even a 3rd chance ???  As Michael Jordan famously said, ” I have failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”

There is no blueprint for success in college basketball.  Sometimes you have a good season when you are expecting a bad one, and vice versa. Sometimes your right job turns out to be a nightmare, and other times a panic acceptance turns out to be a blessing in disguise. 

The following Duke alums probably aren’t the first names to roll off the tongue in consideration for Duke, but it would be rude to overlook them. 

Let’s simply call them “The Come Back Kids”


SDBB - Collage - Tommy Amaker

Tommy Amaker

Bermuda Bob:

When Tommy Amaker initially left Duke for Seton Hall, he had an immediate impact in a short 3 years.  It was so much so that when he bolted for Michigan, there are still people in New Jersey will not utter his name !!!   Let’s face it, if you were offered a legacy programme over the dregs of Newark, New Jersey (Hey, I’m a “Joisey” guy so I can talk !!!) wouldn’t YOU go ???

At Michigan, Tommy was tasked with mopping up after the debacle Steve Fisher allowed to happen with the unfortunately renowned “Fab Five” and their criminal relationship with a Booster.  He was successful in cleaning up the programme, but never got his teams to the Big Dance.  This was beneath Michigan’s lofty expectations, so he was fired, bought out, and within less than 30 days, signed as Harvard’s new Head Coach.

At Harvard, he has done great things, considering that students must be true Student Athletes because no athletic scholarships are offered, as is commonplace in the Ivy League.  He is responsible for leading Harvard into the Big Dance, and even advancing.

There are a few aspects that have to be understood about Tommy.  His wife, Stephanie, is a Clinical Psychologist and a Duke alum.  Harvard offers her an excellent venue for her Practice, and even teaching opportunities.  The other aspect is that he is known to be a leading member of an African-America group of businessmen and professors, along with Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree, to discuss sociopolitical issues.  Both aspects would come into consideration if he were to be offered the job, even to the point where he might dare turn the opportunity down.  That is why I think that, while he might be high on some lists, he is not on mine.


If college basketball coaching was a swimming pool, Tommy Amaker jumped right into the deep end, and somehow managed to find his way to the shallow part, where he learned to swim.

After starting in the Big East and continuing to the Big Ten, Amaker has found continued success in the Ivy League where for five consecutive seasons he has won the conference and made the NCAA tournament.

Amaker came into his own at Harvard. He built that program into what it is today.

This is why, as we previously alluded to, it is good to start at smaller schools and work your way up rather than head for a Power conference.

In spite of his current commitments at Harvard, Amaker may now be ready for a big time school. The question now is should he jump for just any school, or the right school ??? 


SDBB - Collage - Quin Snyder 

Quin Snyder

Bermuda Bob

Quin might not be a name regularly brought up in discussions such as this.  It is because he was a player in the late 80’s who went undrafted.  He was brought on staff by Coach K after a year as an Assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers.  He stayed at Duke for 6 years while earning an MBA and a JD.   Then Missouri came calling.

At Missouri, Quin had a reputation of getting much more out of his players than anyone expected. He took his teams into the Big Dance 4 years straight, getting to the Elite 8 in 2002.  Unfortunately, the ticky-tak compensation rules of the NCAA bit him in the posterior after he admitted to having the audacity to bring players over to his home for meals.  I guess I’ll never be an NCAA coach since I love entertaining friends with my culinary efforts.  Quin was forced to resign.  The stupidity of the situation initially caused him to declare that he would not coach again, but alas, the coaching bug had bitten him !!!

Quin was asked to coach the NBA D-League Austin Toros and did so with great aplomb.  He then enjoyed stints with the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, a Moscow professional team, and the Atlanta Hornets as an Assistant Coach.  Finally, last year, he was offered the Head Coach position with the Utah Jazz.

Such a resume does not make Quin a likely candidate to succeed Coach K.  He has been removed from 18 year olds for too long and uses very different contrivances to inspire NBA players, even if they are getting younger there with every year.   I think he will continue to have a nice coaching career, but just not back in college !!!


Quinn Snyder can bring something to the Duke coaching job that not many of our current candidates can which is a fresh perspective. After doing the same job for years, one can become complacent. Having coached abroad, in the D-League, and in the NBA, Snyder has a wide range of experience as a coach to shake things up.

We spoke about Fred Hoiberg’s success at Iowa State, then there is Larry Brown at SMU. Then there are guys like Rick Pitino and John Calipari …   Guys who went from college coaching to the NBA and back. Recently Avery Johnson was hired at Alabama and Chris Mullins at St. Johns.

If all these NBA coaches can find success in college basketball, especially Johnson and Mullins, then that would be Snyder’s way in because Athletic Directors love to follow trends.

Thanks for the reading …

Next, we discuss more Duke candidates, so stick with us !!!

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