When the Floor-Slapping Stops: Greg Paulus, Coach K, and a Dukie's Future

Brian D. O'LearyCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 27:  Greg Paulus #3 of the Duke Blue Devils slaps the floor on defense against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 27, 2007 in Durham, North Carolina.  Duke defeated Wisconsin 82-58.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Duke bench is where old Blue Devils go to pasture.

Steve Wojciechowski, Chris Collins, Nate James, and Chris Carawell all were serving on Mike Krzyzewski's staff (in some regard) as of the cringe-worthy end of their 2008-09 season. The Duke season ended Thursday night at the hands of the Villanova Wildcats and their 23-point margin of victory.

This begets a question. Does Greg Paulus, formerly much-heralded high school star of gridiron and hardwood, have a standing invitation to become a Krzyzewski assistant?  A future NCAA head coach?

Granted, the Paulus flower lost its bloom during the last couple of seasons, especially in K's eyes, as the former point guard and ACC All-Freshman first-teamer, ultimately lost his starting position.

Nevertheless, shouldn’t unbridled intensity—exemplefied by slapping Coach K Court during crunch time—at least give Paulus a shot at staying at Cameron Indoor for a little while longer?

The Blue Devil squad is not called—as it is known in some circles—"Coach K's Merry Band of Future Assistant Coaches" for nothing.

Sometimes, K even releases an occasional pony from the stable.  Let's examine some of the careers of a few former Blue Devil players-cum-Blue Devil assistants-cum-NCAA head coaches:

Tommy Amaker, decently successful at Seton Hall, botched the Michigan job and parlayed it into the head position for the Harvard Crimson. Amaker finished the 2008-09 season an even .500 (6-8 in the rough-and-tumble Ivy League) with a signature non-conference win against cross-town Boston College.  Apologetically, it was a let-down game for the No. 17 Eagles after knocking off top-ranked North Carolina a few days prior.

Johnny Dawkins—after a stellar career at Duke, a long and decent NBA career, and an eternity sitting next to K—finally got the keys to his own program as he took over the Stanford team this season. He finished the 2008-09 season a respectable 20-13, but finished ninth in the Pac-10. The College Basketball Invitational—one of now countless postseason college tournaments—came calling and the Cardinal ultimately fell to the President's brother-in-law and the Beavers of Oregon State in the CBI semifinals (for what that's worth).

Dave Henderson (not to be confused with the former Red Sox and Athletics slugger) played and coached for Krzyzewski. He had a brief, though terrible, one season run heading-up the University of Delaware program.

Quin Snyder, perhaps the most successful (and the most maligned) of the Krzyzewski coaching tree took over the Missouri program from Norm Stewart in 1999 after a number of years in K's nest and took the Tigers to the Elite Eight in his third season. The following season, the "Ricky Clemons Scandal" and its aftermath snowballed into a couple NIT berths for the Tigers, Snyder's ultimate resignation, and his current toils in the NBA D-League as the coach of the Austin Toros.

As for some others:

Jay Bilas—a former player and assistant in Durham—somehow climbed out of the scrap heap to become a rather entertaining analyst on CBS and ESPN (and is an attorney by-day to boot).

Jeff Capel III never assisted under Krzyzewski, but played for him. He is now the coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, is young, and seems to have a decent career ahead of him, gaining a 2-seed this season and a berth in the Sweet Sixteen (as of the time of this article). His father, Jeff Capel II, did coach under K, however, and III studied under him for a while at Old Dominion before the old man was shown the door.

As for K, himself, three national titles and coaching a USA Gold Medal-winning squad is not too shabby, but not any better than his mentor, Massillon, Ohio's own Robert Montgomery Knight, who has the identical credentials.  None of K's former players, though, have beat Duke as head coaches.

Will Coach K give former wunderkind Paulus the opportunity to fail once again?  For those of us who delight in the sporting misery of others, let's certainly hope so.  Giddy up.