NEW ORLEANS – After training for the last game of his legendary career, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and his wife Mickey climbed into a golf cart in the hallway near the Superdome press room late Saturday night.
The Blue Devils season ended abruptly and dramatically after their 81-77 defeat by North Carolina, their rival Tobacco Road, in the final four. When a phalanx of photographers and reporters was filming videos and filming the moment, Krzyzewski jokingly said, “Maybe you can make the sunset.”
When the golf cart went with Krzyzewski against the horde of media, he added: “Thank you all.”
The man, known as Coach K, 75, may retire after 42, but Duke expects to remain relevant nationally under the leadership of John Scheer, who will take over the program.
Duke could lose as many as five players in the NBA Draft, most notably Paolo Bancher, a star freshman striker and predicted to be the top pick. Also leaving are two graduate forwards, Theo John and Bates Jones, the younger brother of quarterback Giants Daniel Jones.
But Duke attracts six players, which ranks first in the national rankings on 247Sports.com. The group includes three players in the top five in the class: center 7-foot 1 Derek Lively II, forward 6-foot 11 Kyle Filippovsky and winger 6-foot 6 Darik Whitehead, a native of Newark who played at the mighty Montverde Academy, which on Saturday won its sixth GEICO National Championship for Independent Schools.
Lively was named Morgan Wooten’s National Player of the Year, and Whitehead was named McDonald’s Most Valuable Player of the Year and Naismith’s Player of the Year.
“Next year is the beginning of a new era,” Lively said in a recent TV interview. “And I’m ready for me, all the rookies and coach John Scheer to really get to work.”
When Krzyzewski announced in June last year that he would retire after the 2021-22 season, Duke also said that Scheer would succeed him. The 34-year-old Scheer has never been a head coach at any level, and he will be under enormous pressure if he replaces the man who won 1,202 games – the most in the history of the men’s division I – and five national championships. Shaer was captain of the Duke team at the 2010 National Championships, and since 2018 has served as Duke’s assistant head coach.
Announcement of retirement for the year ahead allowed Krzyzewski and Shaer to distribute responsibilities in an orderly manner. Shaer focused on recruiting last spring and summer, while Krzyzewski had more time to be on campus and work with his latest team.
“Given the succession plan we had, I could see my guys every day,” Krzyzewski said at the Final Four. “And we brought our freshmen earlier, about three and a half weeks earlier. And they took a course and kind of were imposed on Duke. “
The plan seemed to work: Duke won the Atlantic Coast Regular Season title and won 32 games before falling to North Carolina in the instant classic semifinals of the national semifinals, and his three-player class in 2023 also ranks 1st in the 247Sports rankings. .com
“That’s why I think the school had a sense of urgency to announce the next head coach and announce Coach K’s plans where we could continue to recruit at the highest level and attract bigger players,” Scheer said in an interview. The New York Times last fall.
Now these big players will be managed by Scheer, not coach K. He has the necessary pieces to succeed, but also huge shoes that also need to be filled.
Just like basketball in college, Krzyzewski will leave a year after Roy Williams, a longtime North Carolina coach.
Kansas coach Bill Self, who won his second national championship Monday night after defeating North Carolina, believes a group of junior coaches can help fill the void.
“I don’t think you’ll see anyone take on a role like Coach K, or anything like that,” he said. “But I think together I think we can do a good job of having a voice because our game is great, but our game also needs change.”
He added: “We need to keep evolving. There are many coaches, including me, who need to have the right to vote, be active and responsible, helping these changes happen. “