When Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that the 2021-22 college basketball season would be his last stalking the sidelines, the narratives began to fly.
Who’s going take over the program? The speculation didn’t last long, because that same day he also announced the program would be turned over to assistant Jon Scheyer, which became a controversial move once the story about how Coach K hated on the university’s selection of Tommy Amaker to take over the reins surfaced.
Duke University executives wanted the former Duke star and accomplished Ivy League head coach to take over, but Coach K nixed that notion quickly, pushing his own candidate to the top of the list.
To many, that move indicated that Coach K still wanted to maintain some control over the program, even in retirement.
Then came the season, as UNC beat the Blue Devils in Coach K’s last home game, ruining a week of ESPN coverage and then ended his career in the Final Four.
Or did they?
Jay Williams Thinks Coach K Could Return
The former Duke star-turned-ESPN basketball analyst believes there’s a chance Coach K returns. His reason would be that the Blue Devils’ coaching structure took a big hit when lead assistant Nolan Smith departed to Louisville.
Jay Williams thinking Coach K could come back to Duke for one more season? pic.twitter.com/4x4aUm3PkR
— Brandon Contes (@BrandonContes) April 5, 2022
Tuesday on ESPN, Williams had this to say.
“I don’t know for this for a fact, and this is sheer speculation on my part, but there’s a lot of moving parts here, and first off, I’m happy for Nolan Smith. He deserves to be an associate head coach. Going back to where his father played. He lost his father while he was younger. Louisville is about to be a crazy program for bringing on Nolan Smith when they confirm the deal.”
Williams added that Coach K and Smith’s exits leave a huge gap in the coaching staff and makes Scheyer’s job that much harder in his first season. Every great white coach needs a brother who can talk to the parents, gain their trust and bridge the cultural gap so the prospect is comfortable enough to choose that university.
“And the question is who fills that void from a recruiting perspective, and it leads me to think, — does Coach K come back for another season, one more final season? I’m not saying I know this, I’m just throwing it out there because these kids are expecting to win a championship and they were recruited and they have close relationships with Nolan Smith.”
Jay Bilas Says Stop That Nonsense
Bilas has a real close relationship with Coach K, even closer than the aforementioned Jay Williams. On an appearance on “The Rich Eisen Show” Bilas says there’s no way Coach K stalks the sidelines again.
“Zero. Yeah, zero,” Bilas says of Coach K’s chances of returning. “But if he does it, if he does come back, I hope he does it on one of Tom Brady’s most important days. Because Brady announced he was coming back during the bracket reveal on Selection Sunday. I think Coach K should time it to one of Brady’s most important moments and do that.”
Bilas knows Coach K better than most. He was a key member of the 1986 Blue Devils team that lost to Louisville in the national championship. In many regards that was Coach K’s breakout team after being hired in 1980. It set the stage for a magical run as he built Duke into one of the biggest basketball brands in the country.
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) April 5, 2022
Duke Could Lose Recruits With Smith’s Departure
The Blue Devils currently have the 2023 No. 1 ranked recruiting class, with No. 1 overall recruit Derek Lively II and No. 5 overall player Darin Whitehead. Both players have strong relationships with the now-departed Smith.
There’s concern that the talents might follow Smith to Louisville. And not just this year going forward. Smith is a well-known and respected recruiter who’s very relatable to today’s young athletes. Growing up in the DMV basketball hotbed, he’ll now be able to sway some of those players to Louisville with him. Duke’s current starting backcourt (Jeremy Roach/Trevor Keels) are both five-stars from the DMV and were his recruits.
Williams believes in order to keep a stranglehold on those players and going forward, Coach K may have to return. That probably isn’t going to happen, but it’s Duke and they have a large contingent of former players who’d probably have no problem taking over for Smith. Now Smith is a recruiting guru, but Duke is Duke and will still attract elite-level talent.
As for Coach K, his fingerprints will still be all over the Duke program, and he’ll still have some sort of control concerning how things transpire.