Opinion: With choice of Jon Scheyer as Mike Krzyzewski’s replacement, Duke follows own history

The idea that Mike Krzyzewski was going to retire as the Duke men's basketball coach soon was pretty obvious. The reality of his pending departure was made more inevitable as he turned 74 and the Blue Devils missed the tournament during an erratic COVID-19 season that also saw nearby rival Roy Williams leave North Carolina. 

Speculation about future successors has been going on for years, so the school wasn't caught flat-footed when Krzyzewski finally made the decision to walk away. There were plenty of former Duke players and assistants on his coaching tree to choose from. Names that had been discussed for more than a decade with each going up and down as they navigated their careers as head coaches.

So the expected decision to select associate assistant coach Jon Scheyer as Coach K's replacement when he finishes his 42nd season at the school was as jarring as the thought of Krzyzewski no longer being on the Duke sideline after next year.

It was just 11 years ago that Scheyer was leading the Blue Devils to the national title as a player. Now, with seven years experience as a Duke assistant, he steps into arguably the biggest shoes to fill of any coach in the history of college athletics.

That's how big of a shadow Coach K has cast during his tenure. It's more than the 1,170 coaching victories that make him college basketball's all-time leader. It's more than the 12 Final Fours that tie him with John Wooden for the most ever. It's more than the five national titles at Duke or three gold medals won while coaching the U.S. men's basketball team at the Olympics.

His personality and success have put Duke as the epicenter of college basketball. There's no middle ground. You either love or hate the Blue Devils, with most of the school's many rivals falling in the latter category.

The curious decision to possibly pick Scheyer wasn't just in his lack of experience. It's also that it cast aside several other options with significantly more seasoning.

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