Coach K has turned Duke into the surest bet in sports. While the Blue Devils had a legacy of solid college hoops before his arrival 40 years ago, he has built it into an overpowering machine. It’s amusing to hear Jay Bilas and Danny Ferry wax poetic about the early years when nothing was guaranteed, when winning the ACC was almost a Cinderella story. It’s like the childhood tales of Darth Vader learning how to ride his bike.
Today, we know how the story goes. Duke recruits the best talent in the country. They turn into All-Americans. They get drafted by the NBA in the lottery. Duke wins the league, is a top-seed in the tournament and goes to the Final Four. Then once every few years the Blue Devils win a title. Coach K gets lauded as the greatest college basketball coach ever, he pretends to be humble and grateful, and then gives us some painfully egocentric quotes that are masked as humility.
But everything is about to change. Or is it? Coach K is finally walking away after this season, following his friend/peer/nemesis/rival Roy Williams. In steps Jon Scheyer, a coach cut from the classic Duke mold, but a complete unknown. Does he recruit as well as Coach K? Can he steer the talent to league titles? Can he win in March? All questions that will take time to be answered.
The first part of that, though, has an early response and it’s positive for Duke. Which means it’s not for Syracuse. Top recruit Kyle Filipowski has been an intense target of the Orange for months. He’s skyrocketed up lists and rankings. His AAU summer highlights have become must-watch YouTube mixes. And he’s chosen the Blue Devils. It’s not surprising. Most analysts projected he would head to Durham, but it’s a big loss nonetheless. Filipowski may end up being one of the best players in college basketball, and could’ve defined a program. Now SU will have to battle against him in the ACC.
But the bigger part of the equation is the win for Scheyer. Sure, Coach K is still running things but Filipowski won’t play a minute for him. So it’s the first sign that even post-Coach K, Duke still can reel in the big fish. It’s a signal that Duke will still recruit itself… for now. The road to big time talent appeared to open up for Jim Boehim with the changes at Duke and UNC. For the moment though, it’s business as usual.