NEW ORLEANS — After coaching the ultimate game of his storied profession, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and his wife, Mickie, climbed right into a golf cart in a hallway near the Superdome’s press room late Saturday night.
The Blue Devils’ season had just come to a sudden and dramatic end after their 81-77 loss to North Carolina, their Tobacco Road rival, within the Final 4. As a phalanx of photographers and reporters took videos and pictures of the moment, Krzyzewski quipped, “Possibly you possibly can superimpose a sunset.”
Because the golf cart drove off with the Krzyzewskis facing the media horde, he added, “Thanks, all.”
The person often called Coach K, 75, could also be riding off into retirement after 42 years, but Duke expects to stay nationally relevant under Jon Scheyer, who will take over this system.
Duke could lose as many as five players to the N.B.A. draft, most notably Paolo Banchero, the star freshman forward and a projected top pick. Two graduate student forwards, Theo John and Bates Jones, the younger brother of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, are also leaving.
But Duke is bringing in a six-player recruiting class ranked No. 1 nationally by 247Sports.com. The group includes three players ranked in the highest five of the category: the 7-foot-1 center Dereck Full of life II, the 6-foot-11 forward Kyle Filipowski and the 6-foot-6 wing Dariq Whitehead, a Newark native who played on the powerhouse Montverde Academy, which won its sixth GEICO national championship for independent schools on Saturday.
Full of life was named the Morgan Wootten National Player of the Yr, while Whitehead was named most useful player of the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Naismith player of the yr.
“Next yr, it’s the beginning of a latest era,” Full of life said in a recent television interview. “And I’m ready for me, all of the recruits and Coach Jon Scheyer to essentially get to working”
When Krzyzewski announced last June that he would retire after the 2021-22 season, Duke concurrently said Scheyer would succeed him. Scheyer, 34, has never been a head coach at any level, and there will likely be tremendous pressure on him as he replaces a person who won 1,202 games — essentially the most in Division I men’s basketball history — and five national championships. Scheyer was the captain of Duke’s 2010 national championship team, and has served as Duke’s associate head coach since 2018.
Announcing his retirement a yr prematurely allowed Krzyzewski and Scheyer to divvy up responsibilities in an orderly fashion. Scheyer focused on recruiting last spring and summer, while Krzyzewski had more time to be on campus and work together with his final team.
“With the succession plan we had in place, I used to be capable of see my guys every single day,” Krzyzewski said on the Final 4. “And we brought our freshmen in earlier, about three and a half weeks earlier. They usually took a course and sort of were indoctrinated to Duke.”
The plan appeared to work: Duke earned the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and won 32 games before falling to North Carolina instantly classic of a national semifinal, and its three-player 2023 recruiting class can be ranked No. 1 by 247Sports.com.
“That’s why I feel there was a way of urgency from the college to announce the following head coach and to announce the plans for Coach K where we could proceed to recruit at the very best level and to usher in the big-big-time players,” Scheyer told The Recent York Times in an interview last fall.
Now it’ll be Scheyer — and never Coach K — guiding those big-time players. He has the pieces in place to succeed, but huge shoes to fill as well.
So does college basketball, with Krzyzewski’s retirement coming one yr after that of Roy Williams, the longtime North Carolina coach.
Kansas Coach Bill Self, who won his second national championship Monday night by beating North Carolina, believes a bunch of younger coaches may also help fill the void.
“I don’t think that you just’re going to see anybody person step right into a role like Coach K’s had or anything like that,” he said. “But I feel collectively I feel we will do job of getting a voice because our game is great, but our game needs changes, too.”
He added: “We’d like to maintain evolving. There’s quite a few coaches on the market, including myself, that must have a voice and be energetic and responsible in helping those changes occur.”