There’s a lot we don’t know yet about how Jon Scheyer will do as Duke’s new head coach, and certainly replacing a legend like Mike Krzyzewski is not easy.
However, part of the reason why Coach K retired is because of the dizzying changes college basketball has seen lately and the now-frenetic pace of recruiting.
You could easily look at the landscape and think it’s time for a younger man to take over. And since Scheyer took over, we’ve seen some things that suggest a bright future is ahead.
First, he is recruiting at an astonishing pace. We’re not sure we’ve ever seen an analogous situation because the only games he has coached are ones where Coach K was unable to attend or finish. Who recruits like that when moving up as an assistant?
Part of it is that it’s Duke and he’s fully leveraging that…but still. It’s remarkable.
Then we can look at his hires, which appear to be astute.
- Amile Jefferson. That was a no-brainer. He’s loyal, smart and probably a rising star in the profession.
- Mike Schrage. The former K staffer was the head coach at Elon before accepting Scheyer’s offer to be a Special Assistant. Scheyer is widely seen as a brilliant young coach but he does not have head coaching experience. Schrage does and he clearly loves Duke.
- Jai Lucas. It’s pretty wild in a sense that Duke hired an assistant away from Kentucky but he’s an outstanding recruiter and while Scheyer will be too, he’s going to be dealing with many other things.
- Rachel Baker as GM. A veteran of Nike and grassroots basketball, Baker will no doubt have other responsibilities but one of her primary responsibilities will be to coordinate NIL. Presumably she has some innovative thoughts on the field overall and specifically how Duke can leverage its huge brand to the advantage of players.
Among others, former Duke star Jason Williams is highly impressed with Baker and tweeted that she would be “[r]unning Duke like the Fortune 500 company it is. Other schools will do the same.”
That’s an interesting comment because Duke has done some very innovative things in the past. Dean Smith once said that train Duke coach “Vic [Bubas] taught us all how to recruit.” Bubas really was organized and systematic about finding talent.
When he was at Duke as an assistant, Quin Snyder, who also has an MBA and, we think, a law degree, both from Duke, applied business principles to the basketball office, taking it from essentially a mom and pop approach to something that followed business organizational principles.
And now, Scheyer is showing early signs of being innovative in a similar way. He has a lot to prove yet as a still-young coach, but certainly he’s not just putting his boots up on the desk and being passive. The guy is instituting major changes at the most successful program in modern basketball. That’s audacious, to say the least.