Duke Basketball: Ranking the Top Potential Successors to Coach K
For the Cameron Crazies, it’s pretty sad that this article is even going to be published.
However depressing it is to fathom, there will come a day when Mike Krzyzewski won’t be coaching the Duke Blue Devils.
Of course, that did happen back in early 1995, during the forgettable and thankfully brief Pete Gaudet era.
But for the sake of this article, we’re trying to envision a scenario where Coach K will walk off into the sunset and hand his blue blood program to someone else to run permanently.
Hopefully, that day is still many years away. But it doesn’t hurt to take a look at some potential candidates worthy (or at least as worthy as possible) enough to follow Krzyzewski and take the reins in Durham.
Here are the top five coaches most likely to one day succeed Coach K at Duke.
5. Steve Wojciechowski
It’s easy to see why Steve Wojciechowski’s name would pop up on a list of potential candidates to eventually succeed Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
The man affectionately known as Wojo has become a mainstay at Duke over the years. He was a feisty spark plug of a point guard for Coach K and the Blue Devils back in the late 1990s.
And since 1999, he’s been one of Coach K’s trusty assistant coaches, displaying that feisty intensity from the bench, as opposed to on the court.
If there’s anyone who embodies the spirit of Duke basketball, it’s certainly Wojo.
But Wojciechowski is likely a long shot to be the guy following Coach K. He wouldn’t get the job over fellow assistant Chris Collins, should Collins remain loyal to Duke. That’s because Collins is the team’s top assistant coach.
And he wouldn’t get the nod over former Duke players and assistant coaches like Mike Brey, Johnny Dawkins and Jeff Capel (there’s some foreshadowing for you). That trio of candidates have college basketball head coaching experience, while Wojo doesn’t.
While he may be the odd man out on this list, Wojo will always hold a special place in the hearts of all Cameron Crazies.
4. Jeff Capel
Former Duke Blue Devil player and current assistant coach Jeff Capel is most affectionately remembered for drilling that memorable half-court shot against North Carolina.
But don’t forget about Capel’s recent tenure as head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.
It was a very successful stint for a while, culminating in the Sooners reaching the Elite 8 back in 2009.
Of course, that was when one of college basketball’s most dominant players ever—Blake Griffin—was the team’s undisputed star. After Griffin left for the NBA, the wins dwindled in Norman, and Capel was fired two seasons later.
That inconvenient caveat could prevent Capel from being a serious candidate to succeed Mike Krzyzewski as Duke’s head coach one day.
3. Chris Collins
There’s no doubt Chris Collins will be a serious candidate to replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke whenever Coach K decides it’s time to step away from the program.
Collins touts a very strong resume. He has the bloodlines, as his father (Doug) is an NBA coaching veteran. Collins was a former Duke team captain for Krzyzewski back in the late 1990s.
And he has been Coach K’s trusty assistant for years—a role he continues to fulfill as the current associate head coach. However, one factor that could potentially hurt Collins is his complete lack of head coaching experience.
Other than his time at Duke, the only other real coaching experience Collins has under his belt is his time as an assistant coach at Seton Hall, and with the WNBA’s Detroit Shock.
It’s tough to ask someone with no head coaching experience to follow Coach K’s legendary act.
2. Johnny Dawkins
Forever, it seemed like former Duke star Johnny Dawkins was destined to become the heir apparent to Mike Krzyzewski’s throne in Durham.
Dawkins spent 10 years on the Blue Devils bench as an assistant coach. And in nine of those years, he held the prestigious title of associate head coach. In layman’s terms, Dawkins was basically Duke’s top assistant coach.
Dawkins surprised everyone in 2008 when he left to take the coaching job at Stanford. Given his relationship with Krzyzewski, there’s a good chance Dawkins could be called upon to replace Coach K whenever he chooses to step down.
However, Dawkins is starting to really put his stamp on the Stanford program. Last season ended with the Cardinal winning the NIT Championship.
Dawkins could very well decide to finish what he started and build his own power in Palo Alto, as opposed to trying to follow the legend of Coach K in Durham.
1. Mike Brey
Mike Brey is the dark-horse candidate when it comes to succeeding Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
Brey was one of Coach K’s assistants during the program’s glory days of the late 80s and early 90s, when the Blue Devils won back-to-back national titles and made a ton of Final Four appearances.
Since then, Brey has had success as the head man at both Delaware and Notre Dame.
It’s a tough job trying to win consistently as a college basketball coach at a school where football is the top athletic priority. Yet, that’s what Brey has done with the Fighting Irish, and in the rigorous Big East, nonetheless.
In his first 12 seasons at Notre Dame, Brey has led the Irish to eight NCAA tournament appearances. He has also won multiple Big East Coach of the Year awards.
As the Irish transition into ACC play in the near future, it could be an audition of sorts for Brey. If he has the same type of success in the new conference as he did in the Big East, Brey will be the logical choice to eventually follow in Coach K’s footsteps.