A day after Mike Krzyzewski announced the addition of Nolan Smith to his coaching staff on the hardwood, David Cutcliffe's staff lost one of its key members Tuesday.
Assistant head coach and run game coordinator John Latina will retire after 34 years on the sidelines, the team announced in a press release Tuesday morning. Latina served on the Duke staff for the past four seasons and worked closely with the offensive line, guiding seven Blue Devil linemen to All-ACC selections during that span.
Marcus Johnson—who played on Cutcliffe's offensive line at Mississippi and has spent the past five years on the Duke staff—was promoted to fill Latina's role.
Latina first worked for Cutcliffe from1999-2004 when Cutcliffe was the head coach of the Rebels, and served on six other collegiate coaching staffs during his career.
“John Latina’s career track record speaks for itself – he’s been an integral part of so many great coaching staffs and he’s mentored some outstanding linemen,” Cutcliffe said in the press release. “The bottom line is, the head coaches John worked with – and that includes me – became better coaches and better men because of his knowledge and dedication to the coaching profession. And there are a bunch of former players out there that owe a great deal of gratitude to him as he helped so many young men become not only better players, but better sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. His impact over the past four seasons here at Duke is easily defined – 33 wins and four straight bowl games are two of the greatest accomplishments in the history of our program.”
Johnson was an All-SEC offensive lineman at Mississippi during Cutcliffe's reign and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft. After playing four years in the pros, Johnson joined the Duke coaching staff ahead of the 2011 campaign and helped in a variety of different roles.
Johnson spent his first two seasons in Durham as an assistant for the strength and conditioning program before serving in the capacity of offensive quality control for the past three seasons.
“Without question, Marcus has emerged as one of the brightest young coaches in college football,” Cutcliffe said. “He obviously played at the highest level, and now has taken advantage of the opportunity to shift his passion to teaching, motivating and leading young men. I know our current and future players will love playing for him, and he’ll continue to be a huge asset to our entire staff.”
The changes continue the coaching carousel on Cutcliffe's staff this offseason following the team's first bowl victory in 54 seasons.
Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery was announced as East Carolina's incoming head coach before the Blue Devils battled Indiana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, but stayed on for one final game in the postseason. In January, Cutcliffe tabbed Zac Roper—formerly the special teams and recruiting coordinator—as Montgomery's replacement in the offensive coordinator position, and hired Jim Bridge from Purdue to fill Roper's role. Earlier this month, Cutcliffe also announced Jim Collins' new role as director of football relations and special assistant to the head coach, as well as the hiring of Ben Albert as an associate defensive coordinator and defensive line coach.
The Blue Devils will see their first action in their spring showcase April 9 and will be without quarterback Thomas Sirk, who ruptured his Achilles Feb. 9.
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