Mike Krzyzewski's 42nd season at Duke will certainly go down as a memorable ride, as he coached the Blue Devils to an ACC regular-season title and a Final Four appearance. Those accomplishments came as he and his team were under an even greater spotlight than usual after Krzyzewski announced last June that the 2021-22 campaign would be his last.
Considering the intense microscope the Blue Devils were under, and the fact that they relied heavily on three freshmen, things went reasonably well. Of course, a March 5 loss to arch rival North Carolina in Coach K's final home game, coupled with a historic loss to the Tar Heels in the Final Four, were bitter pills for Duke fans to swallow. It may have been a good season, but losing to UNC was a tough way to end it.
With the season over, the finality of Krzyzewski's career is a shock to college basketball's system. Though he tabbed assistant coach Jon Scheyer as his successor last offseason, the sport's rumor mill is already churning with questions over whether Krzyzewski, 75, could change his mind and decide to keep working.
Former Duke star and current college basketball analyst Jay Williams fanned the flames of that possibility on Monday. With Duke assistant Nolan Smith reportedly on his way to become a top assistant under Kenny Payne at Louisville, Duke's staff is certainly in flux.
So what are the chances that Krzyzewski changes his mind and decides to come back for a 43rd season coaching the Blue Devils? Our writers weight that topic in this edition of the dribble handoff.
Can't see it happening
I guess I'd never say never because the world is filled with people who make weird decisions. But, man, I'd be shocked if Krzyzewski returned after going through a Farewell Tour that wasn't popular with everybody the first time around.
Would he really do that again?
I seriously doubt it.
Remember, among the reasons Krzyzewski reportedly wanted Scheyer to succeed him instead of Tommy Amaker is because Scheyer was already on staff. As the story goes, Krzyzewski believed that bringing Amaker, now the coach at Harvard, on staff to work under him for a season before taking over would be "disruptive" in general and "awkward" for Scheyer. Well, what would be more disruptive in general, and more awkward for Scheyer, than Coach K returning now after Scheyer worked relentlessly so that he could start his head coaching career with the nation's top-ranked recruiting class? Plus, one of the reasons Krzyzewski said he announced his retirement plans last summer is so the prospects Duke had targeted would know exactly for whom they'd be playing when they enrolled. A return now, under these circumstances, would fly directly in the face of that statement he used to explain his plan.
Losing his final home game to North Carolina, and then having his career ended by UNC, is likely eating at Krzyzewski. I get it. On some level, I imagine it will bother him forever. But the icon did win the ACC and advance to a record 13th Final Four in his final season at an age far past the number at which most have been pushed out of the sport. That's amazing. Odds are, he wouldn't do better next season. In fact, odds are, he'd do worse. So the proper thing for Krzyzewski to do is just focus on an incredible career that spanned nearly five decades, worry very little about how it ended, follow through with his commitment to hand things over to Scheyer and enjoy the rest of his life away from the court. Perhaps I'm being naive, but I suspect that's exactly what he'll do. A reversal of course at this point would be shocking. -- Gary Parrish
He'd be hated even more than Tom Brady
So, the reason we're doing this, basically, is because Jay Williams went on national television and suggested there was a faint chance this might actually happen. I have that right? And Williams also said he didn't have any of this as learned intelligence, if you will, and that he was just musing. Aloud. About his former coach -- the biggest coach in college athletics -- doubling back on one of the most famous and highly publicized farewell seasons in American sports history. Wow.
But you know what? It can't happen. I point-blank asked Krzyzewski if he was fully at peace with this decision before the North Carolina-Duke game. He closed the door. Again. Said he was done.
And then he lost to UNC twice. Agonizing, I know. But this can't happen. Krzyzewski is rightfully held, in basketball circles, in the highest esteem of anyone in that world. But for sports fans, K is polarizing. He's disliked just as much as he's loved. To walk back what he just went through would be so toxic, I believe it would severely damage his image and negatively impact Duke in the process. It's not what he wants. I just can't see this. He's 75, everything imaginable has been done to send him off. This is it. To return and coach Duke for another season would make him a bona fide villain for so many sports fans on a level we rarely see. -- Matt Norlander
Never say never, but ...
Sports retirements are easily the most flimsy retirements of them all. Remember when ACC buddy Jim Boeheim said he'd retire in three years? That was seven years ago. Or when Rick Pitino post-Louisville retired, only to return to coaching the following year (and later to the college ranks shortly thereafter)?
In coaching, especially with as much money that's out there, you can never really say never. So I won't say definitively that there's no chance of Krzyzewski returning.
But it sure as hell is very, very unlikely. Imagine the response K would get if he spent an entire season riding some fanciful farewell tour only to reverse course. It just ain't happening. Jon Scheyer is now the guy. This is how K wanted it, this is how Duke planned it and Scheyer's executing it by landing nine recruits in just over nine months, including the No. 1 incoming recruiting class for next year. Nothing -- not even a painful loss to North Carolina in the championship play-in game -- is likely to change what's been set in motion for nearly a year now. -- Kyle Boone
Krzyzewski choosing to return would undermine Scheyer and make Duke even more despised in the sports world. Tom Brady did it. But he didn't have a whole farewell tour first. You don't get to announce you're retiring, accept all the praise and accolades during a well-publicized victory lap ... and then change your mind. This was Krzyzewski's plan, and if he were to back out now, it would look goofy and unprofessional, and it could even be harmful to the program in the long run. He's smart enough to realize this, which is why there's no chance he'll come back.
That's what Krzyzewski said about the program's succession plan. If the operation were so fragile as to be thrown off kilter by a loss to North Carolina in the Final Four, or the departure of Nolan Smith for Louisville in the week since Coach K spoke those words, then it was a poor plan in the first place. Staff turnover is an annual reality in college basketball and so are emotional, brutal season-ending losses. -- David Cobb