Successor Series: Who would take over for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke?

Friday June 20th, 2014

The Successor Series will examine who might replace some of the biggest head-coaching names in college basketball when they inevitably leave their posts. It is intended as pure speculation -- fodder for discussion in the long hoops offseason. That said: Down the line, we reserve the right to claim we knew it all along.

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke
Career record: 983-306
NCAA titles: Four (1991, 1992, 2001, 2010)

Replacing arguably the greatest coach in the history of college basketball? The mind already spins at the thought of Krzyzewski's departure, followed by the appointment of his successor, unspooling in the modern media era.

Even if it doesn't happen for years, the end creeps a little more into focus with every passing season. At 67, Krzyzewski is hardly ancient, and signing four McDonald's All-Americans for next season suggests he's no less invested in the job as he prepares for his 40th season as a head coach. Taking over at Duke would provide any coach with the resources and program pedigree necessary to compete regularly for championships. Of course, that coach will have to work in what may be the most spine-tingling shadow ever.

There is no Coach K clone, but Duke will likely look for a replacement with a similar demeanor and approach, not to mention an established track record. To that last point, his phenomenal success with the Blue Devils (four national championships, 11 Final Fours) has actually elevated the program to a point where Duke couldn't afford to hire another coach with a resume similar to what Krzyzewski had when he came to Durham in 1980 -- no NCAA tournament appearances in five seasons as a head coach and a 9-17 record in his most recent campaign. As daunting as the job of following Division I's all-time winningest coach would be, there won't be any shortage of guys who will desperately want it. The below possibilities are presented in alphabetical order.

12:06 | College Basketball
SI Now: One-on-one with Coach K

If Krzyzewski left tomorrow

Tommy Amaker, Harvard head coach. Former Duke player and assistant? Check. His head coaching career blew a tire in some ways at Michigan, where Amaker went six years without an NCAA tournament appearance. But his tenure at Harvard has been successful, with the Crimson earning four straight NCAA bids. Those who know Amaker well say he loves his niche in the Ivy League, and that's why he's rebuffed any job inquiries the last couple seasons. (Boston College poked around this offseason, for example.) But they also wonder if he won't get the itch to prove himself at a higher level one more time. There's no telling if Duke administrators would see the Harvard success as fool's gold, but it's hard to imagine Amaker saying no if they didn't.

Jeff Capel, Duke associate head coach. Former Duke player and assistant? Check. He's also an in-house option, as Capel, who spent four playing for Duke and scored 1,601 points between 1993 and 1997, returned to a lieutenant's role under Krzyzewski in 2011 after going 175-110 as a head coach at VCU and then Oklahoma. He took the Sooners to the Elite Eight in 2009 but was fired after back-to-back losing seasons that followed, which may be too much of a stain to overcome -- even if part of the reason Krzyzewski brought Capel aboard as an assistant was to help resurrect his career. Capel is only 39, and whenever Krzyzewski departs, he'd be hungry and know the program as well as any other.

College Basketball
Year 1 to Year 2: A chat with Northwestern coach Chris Collins

Chris Collins, Northwestern head coach. Former Duke player and assistant? Check. Collins is both a near-term and long-range possibility. Had Krzyzewski retired two or three years ago, and had Duke elevated Collins into the head coach role, no one would have been sure what to expect – but no one would have been surprised, either. So if the Blue Devils had an immediate vacancy? Sure, you'd have to anticipate Collins would get consideration, especially after wringing more than anyone expected from a limited Northwestern roster in his first season, which ended with a 14-19 record. But you'd also guess Duke would rather see Collins follow through and orchestrate that first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in Evanston before handing him the reins.

Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics head coach. The 37-year-old Stevens projects a confident presence that, along with his track record of success, makes him seems like a mini-Krzyzewski. And no matter what happens in Boston, Stevens will have an NBA pedigree to pair with his stellar performance at Butler – which he led to two consecutive NCAA tournament title games, including a loss to the Blue Devils in 2010 – to sell to the elite prospects Duke needs. And the school should be able to match whatever Stevens' financial demands may be. Timing could be a factor, though. How many years does Stevens want to prove himself in the NBA? How many more seasons will he get after his 25-57 debut in 2013-14? And will Krzyzewski's retirement line up with all that?

Long shots and long-range plans

Mike Brey, Notre Dame head coach. Brey has been the most consistently successful Coach K protégé (he was an assistant from 1987-95), having won at least 20 games 10 times at Notre Dame, a place where winning isn't entirely automatic. And the man who hired him in South Bend is Kevin White, the former Fighting Irish athletic director who now holds the same position at Duke. Brey has taken the Irish to just one Sweet 16, but he's not a long shot because of that. At 55 and at a place where he's beloved by his bosses, would he be inclined to go to a place where the expectations are far higher?

Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State head coach. OK, so this would be really thinking outside the box, for both Duke and Hoiberg, whose next stop -- if any -- is likely the NBA. (He was rumored to be in the mix at Golden State and Minnesota this offseason.) But Hoiberg is unbelievably composed and affable, and he coaches to his players' strengths in an up-tempo, matchup-based system. He has an NBA pedigree after playing there for 10 years, and he's led the Cyclones to three straight NCAA tournaments, going 74-31 in those seasons. What part of all that wouldn't suit Duke?

Chris Mack, Xavier head coach. It would be difficult for Duke to venture outside its family for the hire, but Mack wouldn't be a bad place to start if it did. He's just 44 and he's led Xavier to four NCAA tournament berths in five years. He worked at Wake Forest from 2001-2004, so he knows the ACC and the region a bit.

Quin Snyder, Utah Jazz head coach. Former Duke player and assistant? Check. On the other hand, his tenure as head coach at Missouri, which featured a 126-91 record and four NCAA berths, also included a three-year probation for recruiting violations preceding his resignation in 2006. That whole affair might be a little unseemly for Duke. But if Snyder thrives in the NBA – he was hired by Utah earlier this month – and the school had no better option, would administrators sell the Changed Man narrative, especially if possibly more than a decade has passed since his transgressions?

One And One
At Marquette, Wojciechowski will have the best situation of any former Coach K assistant

Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette head coach. Former Duke player and assistant? Check. His chances are very similar to Collins' – no one would have been shocked if Wojciechowski took over via a mere promotion had Krzyzewski left last year – but he's included in the long-range category here simply because he hasn't even coached a game at Marquette yet. Presumably, Wojciechowski will do fine at a school with abundant resources. (Marquette spent more money on basketball in fiscal year 2012-13 than Indiana did, per U.S. Dept. of Education figures.) In the event that he does, he'll eventually be in the mix.

Previous Successor Series entries:

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
John Beilein,
John Calipari, Kentucky
Billy Donovan, Florida
Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Rick Pitino, Louisville
Bo Ryan, Wisconsin

Bill Self, Kansas
Roy Williams, North Carolina

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