The most tumultuous offseason in recent Duke history is finally ending. It started with a global pandemic that scattered the team across the country and upended recruiting, continued with head coach Joanne P. McCallie’s resignation and Kara Lawson’s hiring, and ended with the announcement that the season will start without the Cameron Crazies in the stands.
With so much in flux, our beat writers have a lot of different ideas on what will define this season, from the team's landmark win to its MVP and go-to lineup.
At the forefront of the new-look Blue Devils is first-year head coach Kara Lawson, who has already made a resounding impact on the brand of Duke women's basketball. Furthermore, Lawson’s experience gained from coaching in the NBA gives her an edge like few others in the sport.
Lawson’s overhauled, hand-picked assistant staff comes with an overwhelming breadth of experience as well—Beth Cunningham served as an associate head coach under Muffet McGraw for eight years, Tia Jackson coached at Duke under Gail Goestenkors and has since seen success all over the country, and Winston Gandy comes from Rice, but knew Lawson from their days around the Washington Wizards.
The new coaches are looking to get the most out of a team that looks little like the one that sprung into conference and national prominence to end the 2019-20 season. It's hard to tell who will be the key to unlocking these Blue Devils' potential: Is it Miela Goodchild, the standout 3-&-D wing coming off a down year? Or is it Mikayla Boykin, whose second-half emergence last season makes her primed to lead this year’s squad?
Or could the key to Duke's season be Vanessa de Jesus, the team's lone freshman?
De Jesus comes to Durham as the Blue Devils' first five-star recruit since 2017, a sign that Duke's recruiting prowess has diminished over the past few years. But Lawson and the assistant staff have seemed to reverse that trend in just a matter of months, behind a message and a drive that few other schools can offer.
So while this could end up being a rebuilding year for the Blue Devils, the future is bright.
Looking for even more detailed analysis on Duke's squad? Check out our player previews, which contain everything worth knowing about each Blue Devil, and make sure to follow us on Twitter @chroniclesports to stay updated throughout the season.
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