Jay Williams Suggests Mike Krzyzewski Could Return to Duke, Delay Retirement

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 5, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - APRIL 02: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils looks on against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the semifinal game of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Final Four at Caesars Superdome on April 02, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Mike Krzyzewski's final season at Duke ended on two painful notes, with bitter rivals North Carolina beating him in both his final home game and in the Final Four.

But ESPN's Jay Williams said Tuesday (4:30 mark) that he believes Coach K could return to Duke for an entirely different reason—to ensure the school doesn't lose hold of a 2022 recruiting class currently ranked No. 1 in the country, per 247Sports' composite rankings:

"Here's why I give it a legit chance. ... If you're [former Duke and current Louisville assistant] Nolan Smith, and you have a great relationship with all these players, you're in the conference, man. You're at Louisville. You're picking up the phone and you're saying, 'Yo Dariq [Whitehead], it's time. We're here. This is what we're doing here. We're putting together a different team. Be coached by somebody [else].' It turns into recruiting battles, and it weakens your hold on the No. 1 class. So if you're Coach K, how do you strengthen that hold? 'I'm coming back.'"

While Coach K would surely want to leave the Duke program in good hands, the optics of him spending the past year essentially going on a farewell tour and announcing Jon Scheyer as his successor—only to back out after two tough defeats against UNC—wouldn't be great.

Michael Lee @MrMichaelLee

A national title would’ve been sweet but Hubert Davis & his boys gave UNC fans something they’ll cherish: two wins over Coach K & eternal smack-talking material with Duke fans. The better team won Monday but those guys shouldn’t ever have to pay for a meal or drink in Chapel Hill

And it's not as though Duke's incoming freshmen were blindsided by some sudden retirement. Coach K announced that the 2021-22 season would be his last back in June and offered his stamp of approval on the Scheyer hiring.

"He is clearly ready for this opportunity and has shown it repeatedly throughout his playing career and as a coach on our staff the past eight seasons," Krzyzewski said in a statement at the time. "Jon is a rising star in our profession and Duke basketball could not be in better hands in the future."

Players like Whitehead, Dereck Lively II and Kyle Filipowski—all 5-star players, per 247Sports, and all considered top-five recruits in the country—have known since June that Coach K wouldn't be in Durham next season and that Scheyer was replacing him.

The question is how much of a role Smith—who left Duke this week to coach at Louisville—played in securing such a fantastic recruiting class. But if he was the impetus for players like Whitehead, Lively and Filipowski to come to Duke, would Coach K's return even be enough to convince them not to follow Smith to Louisville?

This is all a moot point, of course, if Coach K doesn't actually have any plans to return, or if those players are steadfast in their commitment to Duke regardless of Smith's departure. But the entire situation will probably be at least an occasional talking point until the 2022-23 season.