Former Butler coach Brad Stevens was one of many potential replacements for Coach K. He was not a part of the Duke basketball program before, but he is an extremely talented young coach. He led an unknown Butler team to two National Championship games in just 6 years as a head coach. He has proved himself as a top young coach and he is one of my favorite young coaches with VCU’s Shaka Smart.
Wednesday, Brad Stevens signed a 6 year 22 million dollar deal to be the next head coach of the Boston Celtics (my hometown team). This is a win-win for both teams. The Celtics get a great young coach for a rebuilding team and could go after Tom Thibodeau in a few years if Stevens doesn’t work out. Stevens gets to try his hand in the NBA, and even if he fails, he will get a top job if he returns to the college game. It was a surprising signing, but one that makes a lot of sense.
What matters for Duke fans is how this could effect the post Coach K search. As much as people hope Coach K can coach forever, it will have to end sometime. Many labeled Brad Stevens as a potential replacement, but it may be less likely now. It maybe a ways into the future, but hear are some of my favorites for replacing Coach K.
Jeff Capel is a current assistant under Coach K. Capel and Steve Wojciechowski are the two assistant coaches rumored for the job. I see Capel as more likely then Wojciechowski because his head coaching experience at Oklahoma. He was able to lead Oklahoma to an Elite Eight appearance with the help of star Blake Griffin. After Griffin left, Capel struggled and was fired two years later. He will need to recruit well to succeed, but he has proven he can succeed with talented players. It may be a bit of a long shot, but Capel is definitely and option.
Chris Collins was on Coach K’s staff for years before he just left to coach Northwestern. His strength as a candidate will be determined by his success at Northwestern. If he coaches well, he will be a great option to replace Coach K. I have high hopes for Chris Collins in Northwestern due to his fathers success as an NBA coach. He is not ready to take over at Duke now, but hopefully he will by the time Coach K retires. Chris Collins is one of my favorites to replace Coach K, as long as he succeeds at Northwestern.
Similarly to Chris Collins, Bobby Hurley has just began his coaching career. He will beginning his first head coaching job at Buffalo after being an assistant at Wagner. He is very early in his coaching career and will only be a candidate if he has immediate success at Buffalo. Hurley is definitely a long shot, but should be considered a possible option.
Johnny Dawkins is a great candidate for the Duke job, as a Duke point guard, NBA player, Duke assistant coach, and current college head coach. Dawkins has been successful in his current head coaching job at Stanford, but has not quite lived up to expectations. He has yet to lead Stanford to an NCAA Tournament bid in five years, but did lead them to a NIT Tournament Championship. If Dawkins can continue to improve as a coach, he is a perfect fit for Duke in a few years.
Tommy Amaker has a similar track record to Johnny Dawkins but has had more success as a head coach. He lead Seton Hall to postseason play in each of his four years there including a Sweet Sixteen. He was not as successful at Michigan, but lead them to two NIT Championship games, winning once. He is currently the coach of Harvard and lead them to two straight tournament appearances. He will also need to continue improving as a coach, but is farther along then many other coaching possibilities. As of right now, he is my favorite to replace Coach K.
Even with his recent deal to join the Celtics, Brad Stevens should not be counted out for the Duke job. Very few college coaches have been successful enough to keep their jobs, and most move back to college. This may not be Brad Stevens, but if he returns, his NBA job will be a huge talking point in recruiting. The Celtics job may have made it more of a long shot, but Brad Stevens is a great young coach. If Brad Stevens is available when Coach K retires, Duke should make its best effort to make him Duke’s next head coach.