ACC basketball — and college basketball as a whole — is going to look very different next season.
Duke men’s head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski will retire following the 2021-22 season. The news was first reported by Stadium’s Jeff Goodman. Krzyzewski’s replacement has already been named as well, with assistant Jon Scheyer tapped as the coach-in-waiting.
With Krzyzewski’s decision, two of the ACC’s most accomplished and storied basketball programs will soon have new leaders on the sideline. In early April, North Carolina coach Roy Williams announced his retirement and within days, the school promoted assistant (and alumnus) Hubert Davis to succeed him. Which new coach gains the edge early on could add some spice to one of the sport’s greatest rivalries.
Krzyzewski, 74, will have coached at Duke for 42 seasons when he retires. During his Hall of Fame career, Coach K has compiled 1,097 victories at Duke and five national championships. Prior to landing in Durham, he coached five seasons (going 73-59) at Army.
Krzyzewski led his teams to 12 Final Fours, 15 ACC Tournament championships, and 12 ACC regular-season titles. Only UCLA’s legendary John Wooden has more national championships and no other coach has won more NCAA Tournament games than Krzyzewski. Additionally, Krzyzewski coached the USA men’s basketball team to three Olympic gold medals (also winning two as an assistant, including with the 1992 “Dream Team”).
Besides that success, Krzyzewski also developed a strong reputation for developing future NBA players. He coached 41 first-round draft picks throughout his tenure. That total includes 28 NBA lottery picks, the most by any coach or college basketball program. Those stars include Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, Danny Ferry, Elton Brand, Jay Williams, Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, and Zion Williamson.
Krzyzewski’s success also attracted interest from the NBA several times, with the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers making extremely tempting offers. The Portland Trail Blazers, New Jersey Nets, and Minnesota Timberwolves also attempted to hire Coach K away from Duke.
Duke is coming off its worst record since the 1994-95 season, notching a 13-11 mark (9-9 in the ACC) that included getting swept by North Carolina and Louisville. The Blue Devils failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 24 years.
The 2020-21 campaign was tumultuous, complicated by COVID-19 cases and restrictions, along with the uncertainty of playing a college basketball season. The difficulties Krzyzewski and Duke faced may have been best embodied by the late-season decision by freshman Jalen Johnson to opt out of playing with six games remaining on the schedule. (A foot injury and concerns over aggravating the issue also contributed to Johnson’s choice.)
Yet just how poorly one of college basketball’s traditional powerhouses performed was still surprising.
Scheyer has been on Krzyzewski’s staff for the past eight seasons and was named associate head coach in 2018. Like many of Coach K’s assistants, he also played at Duke and was on 2010’s national championship team.
Perhaps most importantly, Scheyer is viewed as one of Duke’s top recruiters, playing a major role in getting Tatum and Williamson to Durham. That is surely a major reason why he’s now the coach-in-waiting, attempting to ensure stability and as smooth a transition to a new era for the Blue Devils’ basketball program as possible.
Scheyer being named as Krzyzewski’s successor may only seem surprising because there are so many coaches with connections to the Duke program who could take over.
Current head coaches who were former Coach K assistants — and once viewed as potential replacements — include the Utah Jazz’s Quin Snyder, Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Northwestern’s Chris Collins, UCF’s Johnny Dawkins, Pittsburgh’s Jeff Capel, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, and Howard’s Kenny Blakeley. Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley played under Krzyzewski but wasn’t an assistant on his staff. Steve Wojciechowski was fired by Marquette after this past season.
Several of those names could be mentioned if Scheyer struggles as Duke head coach. Taking over for a legend is often an unenviable and insurmountable task, and Scheyer will certainly face pressure to maintain the standard in Durham. If he falters, there will be plenty of candidates rumored as replacements and they won’t encounter the same expectations as an unproven head coach taking over one of college basketball’s most celebrated programs.