Although he is not alone in his opinion, and has certainly earned the credibility to make such a pronouncement throughout his 42 seasons as the most famous analyst on ESPN’s NCAA basketball broadcasts, Dick Vitale feels compelled to qualify that “It feels very strong.” on his opinion on the career of Mike Krzyzewski even if others disagree.
“I think he is the best coach of all time in college basketball,” Vitale told Sporting News. “Obviously I have great respect for John Wooden. . . but it has been a completely different time. “
Krzyzewski will never match the 10 NCAA championships Wooden won during his UCLA career. We can definitely say now, with the reports circulating, “Coach K” will serve as Duke’s coach for just one more season before retiring. The best he can do, at this point, is six, to go with his all-time records of 1,170 wins, 97 NCAA tournament wins, 35 NCAA appearances and 12 record-tying Final Fours.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: In Figures
For Duke assistant coach Jon Scheyer, who has reportedly already been given the reins to succeed Krzyzewski, following this act is a bit like trying to put the finishing touches on an unfinished Van Gogh. It’s just paint, right? Everything seems to be already in place.
Then what could go wrong? A lot of. In fact, many things could go right, but everything could also go wrong. Such is the danger of replacing a legend in any sport.
On Duke in particular, however, the question of how long the show could be seems particularly dire because Krzyzewski has been on the scene for so long and was the author of much of the show’s historic success. Which begs the question: is Duke blue-blooded or is he Coach K?
“He is not a good coach. He is not a good basketball coach. There are many good basketball coaches out there. Mike Krzyzewski is a great coach. He’s in that realm, “Frank Dascenzo, retired sports columnist for the Durham Herald-Sun, told SN.
“It will be almost impossible to replace it. In all my years covering the ACC, there has never been a better coach in any sport. Of his three daughters he always said: ‘I don’t want what is good for them; I want the best for them. ‘ And he transferred it to the program. “
When Krzyzewski was hired to become Duke’s new head coach in 1980, the show had appeared in four Final Fours (three by Vic Bubas, one by Bill Foster) and eight NCAA Tournaments in its history. The Blue Devils had finished first in the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season standings seven times in 30 years and posted a .639 winning percentage in ACC games.
Krzyzewski won the ACC regular season 12 times, the ACC Tournament 15 times and posted a .704 winning percentage in conference games. He may not have built Cameroon’s indoor stadium, but he transformed it into a game cathedral.
The astonishing network of former Duke players was dubbed “The Brotherhood” on the show, and includes NBA All-Stars (Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson), an NBA head coach (Quin Snyder), managers NBA generals (Elton Brand, Trajan Langdon), college head coaches (including Arizona State’s Bobby Hurley, Northwestern’s Chris Collins, Pitt’s Jeff Capel, and Austin Peay’s Nate James), and an army of broadcast analysts (Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Grant Hill among them).
That alumni network will be one of the most important resources for Scheyer, who is also a member after being an All-American point guard on the program’s 2010 championship team, as he navigates the challenges of becoming the head coach of Duke in the spring of 2022.
“If The Brotherhood doesn’t survive from Coach K to someone who’s in The Brotherhood, then it’s not really a brotherhood,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla told SN. “It is up to the next coach to make sure he stays in place because it is a reflection of what Coach K established for 40 years.
“You can count on all the successful ex-student-athletes that Mike coached, and it behooves them to be stronger than ever.”
WHO IS JON SCHEYER? What to know about Krzyzewski’s replacement at Duke
It is not easy even for programs with great success stories sustained through multiple coaching icons to maintain their status. Indiana won two titles with Branch McCracken and three with Bob Knight at the helm, but is now his fifth head coach in the 21 years since Knight’s ouster.
Mick Cronin, who led UCLA to the 2021 Final Four, is the Bruins’ 10th head coach since Wooden’s retirement in 1975. Most of them were fired despite the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16s (Steve Alford), an Elite Eight (Steve Lavin), Final Fours (Ben Howland), and even an NCAA Championship (Jim Harrick).
North Carolina went through this when Matt Doherty was named head coach in 2000, after two Final Fours in three seasons under Bill Guthridge, but poor recruiting hampered him. The Tar Heels compiled an 8-20 season in 2001-02, and Doherty never recovered. It took an established legend, Roy Williams, to bring Carolina basketball back to the levels that Dean Smith had placed it so regularly between 1961 and 1997.
Now Williams has retired, replaced by rookie head coach Hubert Davis. This means that, in the 2022-23 season, Carolina and Duke’s head coaches will have a combined year of head coaching experience on their resumes.
“They have a great passion for schools, they have the support of the guys who are retiring, so that’s positive,” Vitale told SN. “One thing they have going for them is the fact that the schools are North Carolina and Duke, and they are going to attract great players.
“They will have to be very insensitive because they will be criticized left and right. Replacing the guys who were racking up 30-win seasons, who were national contenders every year, is going to be extremely difficult.
“But having an insider, having people on the sidelines who are so loved and respected, these schools love these guys. They are beloved players. I don’t remember ever hearing a bad word about these guys. Now, obviously, they will have to produce. They know “.
Which is not the same as knowing how this will be. Only a few have explored the frontier Scheyer is about to travel, and the stories told upon his return have been dangerous.