Replacing a Legend: Who might Duke turn to after Coach K era?
What if today's top college basketball programs had to replace a legendary coach? Where would they turn? Over the next few weeks, analyst Dan McDonald will take a look at who could be next in line for the nation's top programs when they need to replace legendary coaches. This week, a look at how Duke could try to replace Mike Krzyzewski.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
THE LIST (in alphabetical order)
TOMMY AMAKER, Harvard
You’ll notice a theme as we go through these candidates, and it’s a pretty obvious one. The next hire will most likely have ties to Duke and Coach K. Amaker played point guard for Duke at the beginning Coach K’s historic run, and he has become a terrific coach. He has experience coaching at a top public university and arguably the top private university, which translates well to Duke.
After a bumpy run at Michigan, where he took over a program dealing with NCAA issues, he’s put together an impressive 250-138 record in 13 seasons at Harvard, including four trips to the NCAA Tournament and back-to-back trips to the Round of 32. He’s recruited Rivals150 prospects to Harvard, which never happened prior to his arrival.
JEFF CAPEL, Pitt
Again, we have a former point guard from the early stages of Coach K’s run at Duke. Capel served two stints as an assistant coach at Duke and played a huge role in the recruitment of many of Duke’s top players in recent years, including Zion Williamson.
His first college head coaching job came 20 years ago at VCU when he was just 27 years old. He compiled a 79-41 overall record in four years and really kick-started the success VCU has experienced the past two decades. He then left for Oklahoma, where he recruited Blake Griffin and made a run to the Elite 8 in his third season. Turmoil hit the program and he was let go, and he returned as an assistant at Duke.
He’s in the process of building up a Pittsburgh program that needed a jolt and has the program headed in the right direction. Of all the candidates on this list, he’s the best bet to ensure the Blue Devils maintain the current level of recruiting.
CHRIS COLLINS, Northwestern
Collins also played point guard under Coach K and spent 14 years on the bench as one of his assistants. He took over at Northwestern as the head coach in 2013 and has experienced moderate success in his seven seasons. The highlight came in 2017, when he helped Northwestern reach the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
It’s been tough sledding since, though, with three straight losing seasons. It’d probably be tough for Collins to be a real player for the job if it opens in the next year or so, but if it goes beyond that and he can get back to making the NCAA Tournament, he’ll have a shot.
BOBBY HURLEY, Arizona State
Hurley, like the other four coaches on this list, played point guard for Duke under Coach K. However, he’s the only coach on this list that didn’t serve as one of his assistants. That may or may not be a deal-breaker in the search, but he’s one of the most identifiable players in the school’s history.
After getting a late start in coaching, he quickly worked up the ladder to become Arizona State’s head coach after two years building up Buffalo into a MAC powerhouse and an NCAA Tournament team. He had two straight NCAA Tournament appearances in a row and was on track for a third before this season was cut short with the virus. Hurley has also proven to be a very aggressive and effective recruiter and has put the Sun Devils in the mix regularly with five-star prospects, which includes signing Josh Christopher this year.
STEVE WOJCIECHOWSKI, Marquette
“Wojo” always seems to come up as one of the top candidates to replace Coach K, and for good reason. He spent 16 years sitting next to Coach K on the bench at Duke. He’s six seasons into his tenure as head coach at Marquette with a 115-81 record at the Big East school, which includes two trips to the first round of the NCAA Tournament and he was on track for a third this year before the tournament was scrapped.
He’s recruited fairly well and regularly brings in Rivals150 prospects, but has only landed one five-star prospect: Henry Ellenson his first recruiting class. He did put together arguably his best class in 2020 with three four-star prospects and does have a roster now with D.J. Carton transferring in with immediate eligibility that could make a run the next couple years and put him right at the top of the list.
At this point, I’d go with Hurley as the next head coach at Duke. He’s recruited at the highest level as a head coach. He plays a fun style that will always attract the top guards in the country to play for him, and he’s proven he can win. I would imagine Duke fans would get really excited about the idea of their former star guard coming home to lead the program. Hurley would be a home run hire for the Blue Devils.