‘He Can Be Don Corleone When He Needs To Be’| Book: Duke Wanted Tommy Amaker To Succeed Mike Krzyzewski, But Coach K Shut It Down

Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski announced over the summer that this will be his final season on the sidelines in Durham. With his announcement came a succession plan where Coach K chose assistant Jon Scheyer as his replacement, instead of former Duke great Tommy Amaker, whom the school wanted to hire. 

Coach K: The Rise And Reign of Mike Krzyzewski

In a new book by New York Post writer Ian O’Connor, titled “Coach K: The Rise And Reign of Mike Krzyzewski,” O’Connor describes a Zoom conversation in which Coach K revealed to Amaker, the current Harvard coach, that he preferred Scheyer to succeed him. Amaker removed himself from consideration once he realized he didn’t have the blessing of Coach K.

Excerpts from the book describe Amaker as heartbroken with the decision, with Coach K being his longtime mentor.

Also, in the book a Duke source quoted the following:

“Mike had to explain to Tommy why he couldn’t be the guy. He can be Don Corleone when he needs to be.”

Who Is Jon Scheyer? How Did He Get The Keys To An Iconic Program?

Scheyer’s been a major asset when it comes to compiling talent. He’s the lead recruiter for next year’s top recruiting class, which features four top ten prospects (Dereck Lively, Kyle Filipowski, Dariq Whitehead and Mark Mitchell). His recruiting prowess doesn’t stop there, as he played a huge part in landing the Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish trio from 2018-19.

Prior to Coach K’s announcement, rumors of his successor swirled. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, there was a slight chance the Blue Devils would go outside of the current family and extend the search to past alumni to find Coach K’s replacement. 

They interviewed former Duke lead guards Johnny Dawkins (UCF head coach) and the aforementioned Amaker. Neither was chosen. Per college basketball insider Jeff Goodman, Scheyer received the position and Coach K’s approval.


Coach K Doesn’t Want To Relinquish The Throne

In the book, O’Connor details how Coach K and his inflated ego feels he’ll maintain more influence over the program in retirement with Scheyer in control than with Amaker. That goes back to why he backed the coach he’s been recently grooming over who the administration wanted. Coach K is retiring, but he isn’t going to totally step away from his heaven on earth. 

Scheyer was an instrumental part of compiling the 2006 recruiting haul that Coach K brought in. Prior to his coaching career, Scheyer was a consistent player for the Blue Devils, as he averaged double figures every year in Durham. During his senior season he averaged a career-high 18.2 points, 4.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds. 

The Blue Devils won Coach K his fourth national championship by beating Butler. Following graduation, Scheyer went undrafted before joining the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA G-League in 2011. He dabbled a bit overseas before returning to Duke as an assistant in 2014. He was promoted to associate head coach in 2017-18, when he replaced Steve Wojciechowski, who took the head coach position at Marquette.

Coach K believes Scheyer is ready, and in an interview with BallDurham.com he talked about the heir apparent to his throne. 

“Jon is ready to be a head coach at the highest level,” Coach K said. “He views and feels the game at a different level and has matured into someone who is essentially another head coach within our program. His innate ability to relate to coaches, players, and families will serve him well in his coaching journey, wherever that may take him. Simply, Jon is an outstanding basketball coach … we are fortunate he’s with us at Duke.”

The book also gives readers a look into the turbulent and volatile relationship between Coach K and his mentor Bobby Knight and a plethora of other nuggets about Duke basketball and Coach K’s incomparable run to the top of the all-time wins list. 

Coach K is 1,119-306 in 42 seasons, with five national championships, in Durham.

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