Duke basketball: Coach K's 42 Blue Devils teams, ranked: Which one is No. 1?
Mike Krzyzewski has won five titles and had 13 teams reach the Final Four. But he won't get into a debate on which of his teams ranks No. 1.“Just like I don’t rate my daughters or my grandchildren,” he said last week.
GLENBROOK, Ill. — Chris Collins says Mike Krzyzewski would crack the same joke on Jon Scheyer that he’d rib him with on recruiting trips to Chicago.
“Coach K’s humor sort of surprises people,” said Collins, head coach at Northwestern for the last nine years and a 13-year assistant for Krzyzewski. “He’d always say to players that he was a true inner city Chicagoian, then say about me: ‘He’s not from real Chicago. He’s from the suburbs.’ Then he’d talk about knowing all these city streets and shortcuts. That same joke he’d use with me, he’d use with Jon.”
Both Collins and Scheyer played high school basketball at Glenbrook North and were Illinois Mr. Basketball, albeit 14 years apart. That suburb connection is what helped Collins, Krzyzewski’s top assistant at the time, recruit Scheyer to Durham, North Carolina — where he became an All-America guard and helped lead Duke to the 2010 national championship.
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“I’ve known him since he was a teen to where he’s now in his 30s,” said Dave Weber, who retired as Glenbrook North coach in 2020. “What set him apart back then wasn’t even his talent scoring 50-point games, it was his leadership ability. Wherever he’d go people would follow and he’d back it up by working harder than anyone.
"I watch Coach K and of course now we see all the (pageantry) but it’s been his ability to lead his assistants, the community, the university, the players and work so hard. I see the similarity in who Jon is as a person. It’s not something you acquire. It’s something you’re (born with).”
Following Duke’s Final Four loss to North Carolina, Krzyzewski waved goodbye to a 42-year career that made him the winningest coach in men’s college basketball. But Coach K’s succession plan has been in place since last spring, with Scheyer hand-picked by the 75-year-old coach to step in. The plan saw Krzyzewski lead one final team, while Scheyer went out and hauled in the No. 1 recruiting class for 2022-2023 (per 247 Sports).
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“I wanted to announce (last year) so the program could move on while I’m here for one more year,” said Krzyzewski, not wanting to be unethical and mislead recruits that he was staying. “I thought that was a good move for succession. When (Duke officials) decided who was their head coach, it worked out great. I told Jon, ‘go out and recruit all summer. I’m going to dive in with this team.’
Coach K added: “Anyone who thinks I’m going to hover around the program, you’re wrong. I’m ready to move on.”
Moving on means a new man in charge for the first time since 1980. Who is Jon Scheyer, the 34-year-old Krzyzewski heir taking over one of the most storied programs in the sport? He’s no Mike Krzyzewski. Scheyer separating himself as a new coach out of the shadow of a legend — while leaning on Duke’s tradition — will be essential.
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"He connects with us as people and relates to us because he's not that far removed from being a player," said Wendell Moore Jr. during the Final Four. "This (past) season, we had two guys we could really trust. Coach (Scheyer) knows the game and is one of the best out there. We all knew that."
“Jon is definitely equipped to be the guy. I have full confidence in him taking over at Duke,” Collins said.
That’s high praise coming from the coach who was a possibility to take over for Krzyzewski for many years before Northwestern came calling — and even for a few years after when the Wildcats made their first NCAA Tournament in program history in 2017. Of all the former players — nearly a hundred showed up to Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium to honor him — a dozen are head coaches at other programs, all with viable credentials to contend for the Duke job. Yet Scheyer’s trajectory as an up-and-coming coach lined up perfectly with Krzyzewski’s retirement plans.
“One of the best pieces of advice I got from Coach K when I left Duke to come to Northwestern was, ‘don’t try to be me.’ Be yourself and trust the things you’ve learned from me,” Collins said. “I try to impart that same advice onto Jon. We’ve become more like brothers now. I tell Jon, ‘look, no one is going to be able to live up to Coach K’s legacy. If they tried, they’d fail miserably.’ Duke will always be Coach K’s. But hopefully Jon’s ready to imprint his own legacy.”
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Weber said he knows his former player will be ready to usher in Duke 2.0.
“I think having this year, where he’s known he’s going to be head coach, it’s given him a lot of time for planning and organizing, recruiting and building for the future while at the same time being present for this team,” Weber said. “In his mind, when this is over, it’ll be time. I think he’s ready to step into that chair. And you could see this year, it looked like Coach K was leaning on him more if you really looked close.”
Scheyer, an assistant on Krzyzewski’s staff since he was 25, knows the fanbase and future players are gunning for more. That’s the type of expectations Coach K built in four decades of winning.
“Guys didn’t just come here to play in the NCAA Tournament, they came here for national championships,” Scheyer said during a fall interview. “Sometimes, you don’t like that something challenging happens to you, but you need it to happen to you to lead to something else.”
The baton handoff from Krzyzewski to Scheyer has the feel of a track relay with a large lead given Duke’s tradition and resources. Scheyer said that privilege is something he doesn’t take for granted. But “pressure” isn’t the right word for what he’s felt at the inevitability of taking the reins from Krzyzewski.
“I’m blessed with this opportunity to coach somewhere I truly love, so the sales (pitch) is easy for me,” Scheyer said. “I still plan to keep winning championships here. That’s not going to stop. I wouldn’t say it’s pressure I feel. It’s more just the level of responsibility because of what Coach and Duke is all about – as a global brand in the world and how people take pride in our program. I don’t take it lightly, but at the same time it doesn’t overwhelm me.”
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski finishes the traditional net cutting in the Indianapolis Hoosier Dome after Duke defeated Kansas 72-65 in the NCAA Final Four championship game on April 2, 1991. Recouping from a 30-point loss in last year's NCAA championship game, Duke beat top-ranked UNLV and then Kansas to win the championship for the first time.
Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski yells out instructions during the second half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Feb. 25, 2020.
Duke's Zion Williamson (1) talks with head coach Mike Krzyzewski, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 14, 2019.
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski celebrates with his players after defeating Wisconsin in the 2015 NCAA men's basketball championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on Apr 6, 2015 in Indianapolis.
Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski of the US Men's Senior National Team chats with Head Coach John Calipari of the Dominican Republic Senior Men's National Team during an exhibition game at the Thomas and Mack Center on July 12, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nev.
Duke players hold a sign that celebrates Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's 1,000th career win after an NCAA basketball game against St. John's, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015 in New York. Duke beat St. John's 77-68 and Krzyzewski reached his 1,000 career win Sunday.
Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, left, winner of the Lapchick Character Award, gets together with former St. John's basketball coach Lou Carnesecca at the organization's annual luncheon, in New York on Nov. 20, 2015.
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Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts to a call during the second half against the Florida State Seminoles at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 10, 2020.
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski, center, has his hair messed up by one of his players as they pose for photographers after winning the gold against Spain at Olympic Basketball Gymnasium in Beijing Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is overcome with emotion after Duke's 61-59 win over Butler in the men's NCAA Final Four college basketball championship game in Indianapolis on April 5, 2010. At left is Duke guard Jon Scheyer.
Mike Krzyzewski talks to his grandchildren Michael Savarino, in white jersey, and Joey Savarino after an NCAA championship college basketball game at the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tournament in Atlanta, Sunday, March 15, 2009. Duke defeated Florida State 79-69 for the ACC championship.
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Duke University basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski hugs his star center Christian Laettner after Duke defeated Kentucky in overtime 104-103 to win NCAA East Regional Final in Philadelphia on March 28, 1992.
Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his wife Mickie Krzyzewski walk out to mid-court as he is honored for his 903rd career coaching victory after the game against the Davidson Wildcats at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Nov. 18, 2011.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is congratulated by a group of students with the words 'Krzyzewski 500' spelled out on their chests after his team's 98-85 win over Villanova during the second round of the Preseason NIT Friday, Nov. 17, 2000, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. The win was Krzyzewski's 500th at Duke.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: It's Jon Scheyer's time to lead Duke men's basketball. He's ready for the challenge
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