Why Duke basketball insiders think Jon Scheyer can avoid the ‘following a legend’ curse

Jon Scheyer is a slick 6-foot-1-inch point guard who was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school. He entered Duke in the fall of 2005 and was expected to be a star, but he never got the opportunity to show it. He played in 20 games and averaged 9.5 minutes per game, which isn’t awful, but his lack of impact was a big disappointment to his high school coaches and teammates.

When a team loses a key player to graduation, it is not uncommon for them to struggle the following year. Last year, Duke lost arguably their best player ever, Brian Zoubek, to graduation. Since this is the case, it is important for the Blue Devils to make sure that they do not produce another potential game-changer in the coming year.

This is not a case of following a legend, but being the player that ends up following another player. Jon Scheyer, the senior point guard for the Duke Blue Devils, has been stuck in the shadow of Grayson Allen for the majority of his career. Allen won the ACC scoring title in 2015 and an NCAA title in 2016, and he was considered the best player on the team. Scheyer was always right there though, and he has played a key role in the Blue Devils’ recent success. He’s the leading scorer at Duke, having averaged 17.4 points per game over the past three seasons, and his ability to consistently make big plays down the stretch is a huge factor in the Blue Devils’ success.

Grant Hill received a pass from a teammate in practice during his freshman year at Duke and hoisted the basketball high over his head. Hill made the move instinctively, having come as a raw high school All-American with a lot to learn, like many of Duke’s prospects under Mike Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski interrupted the exercise to reprimand him before he could make his next move.

Hill, who helped Krzyzewski win his first two national championships in 1991 and 1992, said, “I put the ball over my head, which they did down the road at Carolina, and he said, ‘Look, don’t do that.” “‘When you put the ball over your head, all you can do is pass,’ he said. Be a player because you can do things that I can’t teach you. Play.’ Giving you that sort of independence and confidence is exactly what I needed when I was a young player.’”

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Hill would ultimately learn the intricacies of Krzyzewski’s techniques as well as the intricacies of a culture that powered five national titles and perhaps the most dominating coaching stint in college basketball history. That story will come to an end after the 2021-22 season, when Krzyzewski retires and is succeeded by assistant head coach Jon Scheyer, 33. Since John Wooden’s retirement from UCLA in 1975, it will be the most important shift in collegiate basketball.

Scheyer is the hand-picked successor to a head coach who has the most victories (1,171) of any coach in college basketball history. Those who have ventured to follow great instructors, on the other hand, have encountered unique difficulties in the past. It would be naive to expect Scheyer to repeat Krzyzewski’s success, but fans who are used to huge wins demand a level of competition that isn’t always feasible or sustainable.

Will institutional knowledge be enough for Jon Scheyer, who played and coached under Mike Krzyzewski? Image courtesy of Lance King/Getty Images

Is Scheyer up to the task? Is it possible to be prepared?

“Jon has done everything,” Krzyzewski said. “In the past few years, we’ve pushed it to another level.” “To be honest, he’s one of the brightest coaches in the nation. Nobody knows as much about it as I do.”

Three years after winning his second national championship, Krzyzewski said he would miss the remainder of the season due to health issues. He had previously missed two weeks due to complications from preseason back surgery before to the start of the 1994-95 season. The revelation put a Duke squad already in disarray after losing its first six ACC games into a tailspin. The Blue Devils missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than a decade after losing 15 of their last 19 games.

With Krzyzewski out, Pitt head coach Jeff Capel, who averaged 12.5 points per game on that squad, claimed the team lost concentration.

“Without him, the program wouldn’t have been ready to be effective,” Capel said. “Without him, we didn’t know how to win. We had lost faith in ourselves. Our pulse had stopped.”



Mike Krzyzewski will retire after the 2021-22 season, according to Jay Bilas of SportsCenter.

The importance of Krzyzewski’s presence to the program was emphasized by his brief departure that year (he returned the following season). If the Blue Devils face a similar situation in 2022-23, Coach K will not be able to save them as he did in 1995. Instead, it will be Scheyer’s problem, and the few who have attempted to fill such a historic vacuum have not always succeeded.

Andre McCarter was a crucial part of Gene Bartow’s first UCLA team after John Wooden’s retirement in 1975-76. Even though he guided that team to the Final Four, when it lost to Bob Knight’s unbeaten Indiana team, McCarter said it was obvious that Wooden’s replacement felt the strain. Bartow’s squad fell by 20 points against Oregon at Pauley Pavilion in his first season, ending a 98-game home winning run. According to McCarter, the defeat dominated local TV newscasts.

“It’s like you have a job baking donuts, and you’re very excellent at it,” McCarter said. “Then you get the call that you’re going to be the CEO of Krispy Kreme. [Ask Bartow] a lot of questions.”

Murry Bartow was in the seventh grade when his family relocated from Illinois to Los Angeles. Gene Bartow, who died in 2012, left UCLA after two seasons to become the first athletic director and head coach at UAB. Even though he had Wooden’s backing during his tenure at UAB, Murry claimed his father wanted to assist develop the athletic department, but his experience in the aftermath of Wooden’s departure had damaged his passion for coaching.



Mike Krzyzewski’s decision to retire after this season comes as no surprise to Seth Greenberg.

“He loved teaching and wanting to win games and just really liked the coaching side of it, and when he went to UCLA, he wasn’t having a lot of fun,” said Murry, who took over as head coach at UAB in 1996 after his father retired.

UCLA had four different head coaches in the decade after Wooden’s retirement in 1975. (Bartow, Gary Cunningham, Larry Brown and Larry Farmer). None of them lasted more than three seasons. Only Bartow and Brown made it to the Final Four, and neither won the national championship that had been the expectation of the fan base under Wooden.

Similar pressures have been felt by coaches at other blueblood schools.

“I chose to let someone else experience the strain, that’s the high-pressure way of life at Kentucky,” Joe B. Hall, who succeeded Adolph Rupp at Kentucky and won the national championship in 1978, told reporters when he suddenly resigned seven years later.

Before becoming the program’s head coach, Hall worked as an assistant under Rupp. However, his connections to the program failed to impress a fan base eager to see him continue Rupp’s tradition and compete for titles.

Bob Guyette, who played under Hall during his first three years as Kentucky’s head coach, stated, “Obviously, there were expectations to win, which Coach Rupp had instilled through all these years.”

Tubby Smith won a championship in his first season at Kentucky, but it wasn’t enough to keep him going for the next eight years. L.M. Otero/AP Photo

After Rick Pitino departed Kentucky for the Boston Celtics more than a decade later, Tubby Smith won a national title in his first season as head coach at Lexington. However, he departed nine years later without ever earning the complete support of the fan community. In the face of criticism of his show, Smith warned reporters, “You better have thick skin or else.”

When replacing Dean Smith at North Carolina, Bill Guthridge won almost 74% of his games, but Matt Doherty, a former player who became the program’s head coach after Guthridge departed, quit after three seasons. In the ACC, he ended with a 23-25 record.

Kevin Ollie led UConn to a national championship two years after Jim Calhoun stepped down, but his career came to an end in 2018 after a 14-18 season and an NCAA probe.

“It’s like if you had a job baking doughnuts, which you excel at. Then you get the call that you’re going to be the CEO of Krispy Kreme.”


UCLA Bruins’ Andre McCarter, 1975-76

Will Scheyer’s support from Krzyzewski and his familiarity with the only collegiate program he’s ever attended help him escape the fate of his legend-dethroning predecessors?

“Having someone from inside, someone who has been there in recent years,” Hill added, “I believe that may definitely assist.” “However, replacing an icon is tough. It’s never simple to accomplish anything like that.”

Murry Bartow stated, “Obviously, Jon couldn’t say no when he was given the position.” “He had no choice except to say yes. He had no choice but to accept it. But when you’re following one of the greatest who’s ever done it, you’re in for a difficult position.”

Vince Taylor was stumped when a local reporter phoned asking for his thoughts on Duke’s new head coach. The Duke sophomore couldn’t Google his name since it was 1980. “Who?” he had just one question for the reporter. That title appeared in the next morning’s newspaper, and it summed up the mystery surrounding the presence of a young Army coach.

Krzyzewski worked hard in his first year to show he belonged, according to Taylor.

Taylor, who is currently an assistant at UCF, described him as “a very vocal and aggressive, determined coach.” “And, since he was just 33 or 34 years old, he understood he needed to establish a culture fast. That’s why I believe he gravitated toward Scheyer, who reminded him of himself.”



Mike Krzyzewski explains why he will leave Duke after the 2021-22 season.

Even future Duke players like Grant Hill and his colleagues were expected to dive on the court for every loose ball because “the ball belongs to us,” Krzyzewski would remind his squad. Players were sometimes thrown out of practice if they didn’t speak enough. When it comes to pickup games, are you apprehensive? They’d find out from the veterans in charge of carrying on their coach’s ideology even when he wasn’t there. In addition, if his team lacked tenacity, Krzyzewski would put them through a grueling exercise to remind them of his expectations.

“When he got angry, he’d gather us in two lines and do a ‘take the charge’ exercise,” Hill said. “Going up for a layup, the offensive player had to go full speed. And the defensive player had no choice but to enter the fray. It didn’t happen all that often. But it was the essence of who he was and what he demanded from his men.”

Scheyer has grown to grasp this expectation as a result of his relationship to the show. Scheyer, a 2006 high school All-American from the Chicago area, started 32 of Duke’s first 33 games for a team that struggled late in the 2006-07 season, falling in the first round to VCU. A year later, Duke was a 2-seed who fell in the second round to West Virginia. By the time Scheyer’s 2008-09 team, which was also a 2-seed, was eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Villanova, it had a disgraceful 1-5 record versus rival North Carolina, the national champion at the time, in his first three years at Duke. However, Scheyer and his colleagues were rewarded for their perseverance when their squad won the national title a year later.

Jon Scheyer’s four-year playing career at Duke had its ups and downs, but it ended with a national championship. Gerry Broome/Associated Press/Gerry Broome/Associated Press/Gerry Broome/Associated Press/Gerry

Scheyer joined Krzyzewski’s staff three years after defeating Butler for the championship. Those who have worked with and mentored Scheyer say he is aware of the gravity of the position he will shortly assume. In addition, he’s surrounded by a group of former Duke players who trust in his abilities.

“I believe Jon has a great opportunity to succeed,” said UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins, who coached Scheyer on Krzyzewski’s staff. “I believe we all believe in him, just like [Krzyzewski] does.” Duke is a fraternity, and I believe he’ll have everyone’s support and rally behind him as [Krzyzewski’s] successor, and they’ll all want to see him succeed.

When Capel first started coaching, he wanted to emulate his father and longstanding coach, Jeff Capel II, as well as Krzyzewski’s characteristics and beliefs. Capel said he’d tell Scheyer the same thing Krzyzewski told him when he got his first head coaching job: be yourself. He admitted that achieving that objective isn’t always simple.

“Jon is familiar with the culture,” Capel added. “His four years had been difficult. He has to be himself. Coach K will never be replaced. I believe that even attempting to do so is a failure.”

Sometimes, all it takes is one play or one game to change a player’s career. That’s what happened to Jon Scheyer, who was the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2001, yet would be relegated to being a role player by Coach K a year later. Scheyer would go on to lead Duke to the national championship in 2006, only to spend the next four years being a bench player for Coach K.. Read more about jon scheyer duke teammates and let us know what you think.

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