Mike Krzyzewski is as capable of building a juggernaut in his 70s as he was in his 40s. The Duke coach has talent capable of collecting his sixth national championship, and he seems to have little interest in slowing down anytime soon.
Still, Krzyzewski is 72 and has undergone a variety of surgeries in recent seasons, so it’s fair to wonder just how long he’ll remain in Durham, N.C. At the same time, there isn’t a slam-dunk candidate to replace him, something that became clearer when the most obvious in-house option, Jeff Capel, left for Pittsburgh after last season.
Several offshoots of the Coach K tree are running their own teams, but no one blends age, overwhelming success and Duke-specific experience so well that he is a clear-cut top option. Some, though, probably stand a better chance than others.
Harvard coach | Age: 53
Coach K ties: Duke point guard (1983-87),
Duke assistant (1988-97)
Career record: 406-268
NCAA tournament record: 4-5 (one Sweet 16)
Career highlights: He has spent time at a pair of high-level programs (Seton Hall and Michigan), but turning Harvard into an Ivy League power is his greatest accomplishment. The Crimson had been to one NCAA tournament, in 1946, before Amaker’s arrival; they went to four in a row from 2012 to 2015, advancing to the round of 32 twice.
Biggest pro: He has been a head coach for more than 20 years, so he’s experienced much more than many of the other potential candidates. His ability to recruit top-100 players to Harvard shouldn’t be discounted, either.
Biggest con: Amaker was a power-conference coach before, and while there were extenuating circumstances at Michigan thanks to a long-running NCAA investigation into activity before his arrival, the fact remains the Wolverines never reached the NCAA tournament in his six-year tenure.
Notre Dame coach | Age: 59
Coach K ties: Duke assistant (1987-95)
Career record: 516-273
NCAA tournament record: 13-14 (two Elite Eights, three Sweet 16s)
Career highlight: Consistency is the hallmark of Brey’s stint at Notre Dame. The Irish collected 20 victories in 10 of the 11 previous seasons coming into this year, and the best year of the bunch came in 2014-15 when Notre Dame won the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., beating Duke and North Carolina to close out the run. That team finished 32-6 and reached the Elite Eight.
Biggest pro: The man can coach offense; the Irish have ranked in the top 20 of the KenPom.com offensive efficiency rankings 10 times in the past 17 years. Brey allows his players plenty of freedom to make decisions within the offense.
Biggest con: It’s sometimes hard to believe the well-liked Brey is pushing 60 given his laid-back personality. But will Duke try to find can find a coach who has the potential to stitch together a tenure of 15-20 years to follow up its current legend?
Pittsburgh coach | Age: 44
Coach K ties: Duke guard (1993-97), Duke assistant (2011-18)
Career record: 189-129
NCAA tournament record: 4-3 (one Elite Eight)
Career highlight: A fast riser, Capel got his first head coaching job, at VCU, at age 27 and reached the NCAA tournament in his second season. He later guided a Blake Griffin-led Oklahoma team to the Elite Eight. After a seven-year stint back in Durham, Capel got his second high-major coaching job last year at Pitt.
Biggest pro: The man’s recruiting chops cannot be denied, and he had plenty of responsibility as Duke’s associate head coach, including handling the team during Krzyzewski’s health issues in recent years. Plus, he’s still plenty young and could carve out an extended legacy.
Biggest con: Capel’s five years at Oklahoma ended with a thud, with a pair of losing seasons and NCAA violations committed by an assistant coach. It probably would be a tough sell for Duke to hire him if Pitt struggles over the long haul.
Northwestern coach | Age: 44
Coach K ties: Duke guard (1992-96), Duke assistant (2000-13)
Career record: 101-96
NCAA tournament record: 1-1
Career highlights: The son of longtime NBA coach Doug Collins played on a Final Four team at Duke and spent nearly all of his post-playing career nestled in the Duke coaching tree, whether as an assistant at Seton Hall under Tommy Amaker or a decade-plus back in Durham. He elevated Northwestern from irrelevant to competitive, but the Wildcats have backslid the past two years.
Biggest pro: He got Northwestern to the NCAA tournament in 2017, something the Wildcats had never accomplished before. If you can win in Evanston, Ill., you can win in a lot of places.
Biggest con: Six years into his head-coaching career, Collins has only one postseason trip of any kind. Plus, the past two seasons have done nothing to improve his résumé (though an ill-fated season playing off campus in Rosemont in 2017-18 didn’t help).
Central Florida coach | Age: 55
Coach K ties: Duke guard (1982-86), Duke assistant (1998-2008)
Career record: 222-148
NCAA tournament record: 2-1 (one Sweet 16)
Career highlights: No one will question Dawkins’s Duke bona fides. He was part of a galvanizing recruiting class early in Krzyzewski’s tenure, helping the Blue Devils reach the Final Four in 1986 while being honored as the national player of the year. As a head coach, he won a pair of NITs in eight years at Stanford, presiding over a series of mid-pack teams in the Pac-10/Pac-12.
Biggest pro: He’s Duke royalty, right down to his jersey in the rafters of Cameron Indoor Stadium. Between laying the foundation to spark Krzyzewski’s extended run to helping assemble parts of the 2001 national title team, he knows the program through and through.
Biggest con: One NCAA tournament berth in 10 seasons as a head coach, including eight in a power conference, isn’t going to excite many people.
Arizona State coach | Age: 47
Coach K ties: Duke point guard (1989-93)
Career record: 114-77
NCAA tournament record: 0-2
Career highlights: Best remembered as the starting point guard for two Duke national title teams (1991 and 1992), Hurley was the most outstanding player of the 1992 Final Four and a first-team all-American the following year. He took Buffalo to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2015 and jumped to Arizona State, where he guided the Sun Devils to the NCAAs last season.
Biggest pro: It’s tough to imagine many former players having more credibility on what it takes to win at Duke. And Hurley has immediately thrived as a head coach, even leading Arizona State to its second victory ever over a top-ranked team this season (Kansas).
Biggest con: He hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game, for starters. Some might point out he hasn’t coached for as long as the rest of the list, but the man did learn the game from two of the best basketball coaches this country has produced: Krzyzewski and his father, Bob, a legendary high school coach in New Jersey.
Utah Jazz coach | Age: 52
Coach K ties: Duke guard (1985-89), Duke assistant (1993-99)
Career record: 126-91 in college; 217-180 in the NBA
NCAA tournament record: 5-4 (one Elite Eight)
Career highlights: He owns arguably the most diverse résumé of any of Coach K’s former assistants. After resigning at Missouri in the middle of the 2005-06 season, he has coached in the G League, has served as an NBA assistant, has worked for Russian power CSKA Moscow and is in his fifth season with the Jazz, where he is on pace for his third consecutive playoff appearance.
Biggest pro: Well, the pros. It never hurts to have NBA experience, especially at a program such as Duke that has become so heavily invested in attracting one-and-done talent.
Biggest con: Things didn’t end well at Missouri, and he hasn’t been back in the college game since. And given the success he has enjoyed in the NBA, is there really much incentive to leave?
Marquette coach | Age: 42
Coach K ties: Duke point guard (1994-98), Duke assistant (1999-2014)
Career record: 97-68
NCAA tournament record: 0-1
Career highlight: Remembered for his floor-slapping and lockdown defense during his playing days as a Blue Devil, he spent a decade and a half on Krzyzewski’s staff in Durham. Wojo was shrewd in his choice of jobs to pursue. Few schools pour as many resources into basketball as Marquette, and the Golden Eagles are in the midst of their best season since the Buzz Williams years.
Biggest pro: He has spent as much time around Krzyzewski as anyone and was a trusted assistant for two national title teams. He’s the youngest of the former Coach K assistants now running his own program and appears to have Marquette on the verge of reclaiming its status as a national power. If that happens before Krzyzewski retires, Wojciechowski could well be the favorite to follow his college coach.
Biggest con: No postseason success to speak of . . . yet (unless you want to count last year’s trip to the NIT quarterfinals).