Ideal Replacements for Each Active College Basketball Coaching Legend
Every athletic director in the country has a short list of coaches he would consider if his coach leaves.
For the ADs with legends patrolling the sidelines, this is a sensitive subject. For one, you're not in a hurry to get rid of your current coach. It's also become customary to consult the outgoing legend out of respect. And the final thing to consider is that you need a coach with enough confidence in himself to replace the legend.
There are currently four coaches in the country who have earned 'legend' status and are also nearing or already at retirement age: Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, Louisville's Rick Pitino, North Carolina's Roy Williams and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.
For the four ADs at those schools, let's consider the ideal replacement at each program.
Who Should Replace Jim Boeheim at Syracuse?
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Ideal Replacement: Mike Hopkins, Syracuse assistant and coach-in-waiting
Unless someone hires Mike Hopkins before Jim Boeheim retires, this is a given.
Hopkins has already been named the coach-in-waiting, and there's no reason for Syracuse to go against Boeheim's wishes. Much like Jim Calhoun at Connecticut, Boeheim wants the job to stay in his coaching family.
That makes sense, because Syracuse is Syracuse because of Boeheim, and the structure of the program that has led to such great success would not change with Hopkins, who played for Boeheim and has been on his staff since 1995.
Hopkins did interview for the USC job in March, so he's willing to at least consider other options.
Many believe Boeheim, 68, will retire soon; however, he has plans to go at least one more year and was upset when CBSSports.com columnist Gregg Doyel asked him about retirement after Syracuse's loss to Michigan at the Final Four.
Who Should Replace Rick Pitino at Louisville?
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Ideal Replacement: Richard Pitino, Minnesota head coach
Rick Pitino has a large coaching tree, but no one jumps out as a home-run hire in that tree other than Billy Donovan, who would not have any reason to leave Florida for Louisville. (Cincinnati's Mick Cronin is the closest who has shown potential to become a big name.)
The younger Pitino makes sense because he spent time with his father at Louisville, and the only guy with the confidence to follow Pitino might be his son.
Richard will have to prove himself at Minnesota, but he should have plenty of time, as his father does not have plans to retire soon.
Pitino, 60, has a contract that goes through 2022. Pitino told USA Today in October when he signed the extension that he would coach as long as he was healthy.
That's a change from two years before that when he said he would retire after the 2017 season (via the Associated Press).
"When you're 59, you're realistic that you don't have a whole lot of years left," Pitino said at the time. "My contract's going to run out in 2017. I'm not coaching anymore after that."
If Pitino coaches through 2022, his eventual replacement may not even be a head coach yet, but his son would still be young enough to build his own legacy at Louisville.
Who Should Replace Roy Williams at North Carolina
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Ideal Replacement: Shaka Smart, Virginia Commonwealth head coach
North Carolina has kept the job in the UNC family since Dean Smith retired, but it might be time to finally look elsewhere once Roy Williams retires.
There is not anyone in Smith or Williams' coaching tree who would make sense as a replacement. None of Williams' former assistants are stars in the profession. The closest thing is current Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who is a Kansas grad.
North Carolina also should have learned its lesson with Matt Doherty. Williams saved the program, but if he would not have returned, it would have been time to move on in 2003.
Smart has been more than willing to stay put at VCU and even turned down UCLA this past year. So what makes this different? Smart is more familiar with that part of the country, and the resources at UNC are better than UCLA.
Williams, 62, is not likely to call it quits anytime soon. He told the Greater Wilmington Business Journal in October that if he stays healthy, he would like to coach for another six to 10 years.
Who Should Replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke?
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Ideal Replacement: Brad Stevens, Butler head coach
Who better to replace Mike Krzyzewski than the coach who is often compared to the Duke legend?
After Duke beat Butler in the 2010 championship game, Krzyzewski said (via USA Today) that be would tell Stevens to stay put at Butler. That could change the day Coach K retires; he may end up trying to recruit Stevens to be his replacement.
Duke seems like an ideal destination for Stevens. He is used to coaching at a private institution where basketball is king and the "student" part of student-athlete is part of the equation. Duke has also shown great loyalty to Coach K, giving him a lifetime contract in 2001.
Stevens also makes sense, because none of Krzyzewski's former assistants would really excite the fanbase. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has had the most success, and Brey is already 54. This could change if new Northwestern coach Chris Collins becomes a star at Northwestern.
Even if that's the case, Stevens would likely still be Duke's first choice.