Next Duke basketball head coach could soon become obvious

Duke basketball (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports) /

A Duke basketball legend is essentially about to audition for a future job.

Regardless of whether the 33-year-old Jon Scheyer hopes to one day permanently receive the Duke basketball reins from the 73-year-old Mike Krzyzewski, the pressure is on the associate head coach this week. The two-time Blue Devil national champ — in 2010 as a senior and in 2015 as an assistant coach — is set to make his debut as an acting head coach.

On Monday, Krzyzewski officially informed the media that he will not be on hand when No. 21 Duke (3-2, 1-0 ACC) hosts unranked Boston College (2-7, 0-3 ACC) at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Instead, he continues to quarantine due to a family member recently testing positive for COVID-19.

This will mark the first game that Krzyzewski has missed since an 89-71 home victory over Wake Forest on Jan. 13, 2018, when then-associate head coach Jeff Capel served as the stand-in head honcho while the all-time wins leader battled an illness.

The 41st-year Duke basketball CEO noted that his assistants will share the extra responsibilities this time. But Krzyzewski did technically appoint Scheyer, who has been his righthand man since Capel took over at Pitt following the 2017-18 season, as the guy in charge until his return.

Speaking of the Hall of Famer’s return, Krzyzewski mentioned his quarantine might also keep him out of the home game against unranked Wake Forest (3-1, 0-1 ACC) at noon Saturday:

“I’ll be quarantined for the rest of the week. I’ve had Zooms [on Sunday] with my staff to go over Boston College, wrote out our practice plan, had a meeting with my staff this morning…I’ll have another meeting with my staff, and I’ll FaceTime with each of the players individually tonight and then make do the best we can.”

Like it or not, the spotlight is on the temporary Duke basketball boss

Jon Scheyer, who shares in common with Mike Krzyzewski his Chicago-area beginning, is already widely seen as one of a dozen or so legit contenders to become the next Duke basketball head coach, whenever that time may come. Now, though, the former wise-beyond-his-years combo guard has a shot to cement his place at the top of that list.

ALSO READ: The 100 greatest Blue Devils under Coach K

Scheyer is young and has a friendly demeanor; therefore, he’s quite relatable to the players. He’s well-spoken and seems to be a sharp listener; therefore, he’s both a clear instructor in the huddle and a recruiting whiz, as evident in the fact he’s finished among the top five on the 247Sports Recruiter Rankings across the past three cycles.

From a fan’s perspective, not only was Scheyer one of the easiest Blue Devils to trust as a skilled sharpshooter and turnover-repellant floor general, but he should now be easy to trust as a fill-in for Coach K.

In these next two outings against relatively mediocre opponents, these Blue Devils certainly need to exhibit significant signs of growth while shaking off the rust from their three-week hiatus. They’ll likely have to do so without the services of freshman star Jalen Johnson, who remains out indefinitely with a foot injury.

With all that in mind, the current setting appears ideal for Scheyer to show off the effectiveness of his entire toolbox as a leader.

So should the Blue Devils consistently look inspired on the court and thereby trounce the Eagles and Demon Deacons without Coach K around, there’s no doubt Scheyer will soon land offers to be a head coach somewhere in a major conference. Plus, there’s no doubt the powers in Durham will remember his name when it comes time to pick a successor.

Naturally, if Jon Scheyer does indeed prove his prowess as an in-game head coach this week and is still in town when Coach K’s retirement day arrives, then his selection as successor would put the Duke basketball program in position for the smoothest possible transition.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham for more on Jon Scheyer as acting head coach plus other Duke basketball news and views.