Duke basketball already suffers first major departure of offseason

Duke basketball coach Nolan Smith and forward Wendell Moore (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Duke basketball coach Nolan Smith and forward Wendell Moore (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The first major departure of the offseason has hit the Duke basketball program. 

Perhaps the biggest offseason in the history of the Duke basketball program is officially underway, and the Blue Devils have already suffered a major departure.

Assistant coach Nolan Smith will leave Durham and has accepted a job as the associate head coach on the staff of Kenny Payne at the University of Louisville, according to multiple reports.

The news was first reported by ESPN’s Marcus Spears on Monday afternoon.

Smith, a Louisville, Kentucky native, spent his entire collegiate career playing with the Blue Devils under head coach Mike Krzyzewski and has been on the Duke coaching staff since 2016 when he joined as a special assistant.

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The 33-year-old was then promoted as the director of basketball operations in 2018 and promoted again in 2021 to an assistant coaching position.

College basketball insider Jeff Goodman reported that Duke would not match the contract that Louisville is giving Smith, and the lure to return home was very tempting for the 2010 National Champion.

Smith and Jon Scheyer were teammates and the key cogs for the Blue Devils on the National Championship roster.

Nolan Smith’s late father, Derek, was a star at Louisville and was on the 1980 National Championship team.

Duke basketball with multiple positions to fill on coaching staff

The departure of Nolan Smith, coupled with the retirement of Mike Krzyzewski, has opened two spots on the coaching staff for Jon Scheyer to fill.

It seems likely that Amile Jefferson will be promoted to one of the vacant assistant coaching positions as the 2015 National Champion is currently the director of basketball operations for the Blue Devils.

Jefferson only spent one season in his current role but filled in as an assistant coach this season when Chris Carrawell was out after undergoing knee surgery and as Smith missed games due to health and safety protocols.

Former Duke assistant coach, and player, Steve Wojciechowski has been rumored to be a potential addition to the staff, but it seems unlikely for the former Marquette coach to return to Durham.

Perhaps the hottest name surrounding the Duke program is Elon head coach Mike Schrage.

Schrage has been the leader of the Phoenix for three seasons but only holds a 33–52 record.

The 45-year-old has spent time as an assistant coach at Stanford, Butler, and Ohio State after being the academic and recruiting coordinator in addition to the director of basketball operations for the Blue Devils from 1999 to 2008.