On Monday, Mike Krzyzewski confirmed that Jon Scheyer would be serving as head coach for Duke against Boston College while Krzyzewski quarantined at home due to a potential COVID-19 exposure. Fortunately for Scheyer, the Blue Devils beat the Eagles in Cameron Indoor Stadium Wednesday night.
But man, was it close.
Sophomore forward Wendell Moore Jr. had to pull a rabbit out of a hat to give No. 21 Duke the 83-82 win, scoring 25 points and hitting the step back jumper to seal the 33-year-old Scheyer’s first career victory as a head coach.
“It’s easier to call Coach after the game,” Scheyer said. “I may not sleep tonight.”
And why should he? The game was one of the weirdest contests in recent memory. First, no in-person fans cheered on Scheyer in his first game as a head coach due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Second, Scheyer wasn’t actually the head coach. Krzyzewski had coached the team via Zoom in practice the preceding week, and may return to the sideline Saturday against Wake Forest if health officials clear him for action.
Third, Duke had not played a game in 21 days because positive COVID-19 tests from opponents had canceled its previous two scheduled games.
“It’s not how I dreamed about coaching my first game ever,” Scheyer said. “Bizarre circumstances.”
All that is without even mentioning the fact that the game took place just hours after a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., an unavoidable distraction for Scheyer and his team.
Scheyer’s career trajectory did not look too promising in the opening minutes of the game. The rusty Blue Devils quickly fell behind a Boston College team that boasted just two wins this season. At one point in the first half, Duke found itself down by 16 points.
Then, Scheyer and the rest of the coaching staff revved the team’s engines. By halftime, the Blue Devils’ deficit had been cut to eight. A late push and some clever playcalling by Scheyer helped Duke eke out a victory.
“I think he did great,” Moore said. “He called the big plays down the stretch. And he just wasn't scared of the moment. He was really big-time tonight.”
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Krzyzewski had helped run practices virtually in the leadup to the Boston College matchup. He also made FaceTime calls to each player and formulated the game plan for Scheyer and the rest of the coaching staff.
But when game time actually came, the most that Coach K could do was yell at the TV like the rest of us.
“I can only imagine what Coach was thinking and doing down the stretch there…well, the whole game, actually,” Scheyer said.
Scheyer is 40 years Krzyzewski’s junior but already a legend in his own right. As a player, Scheyer sits 10th all-time in career points at Duke. And in 2010, Scheyer’s senior year, the two-time captain finally won a national championship.
“[Coach K and Jon Scheyer have] the same energy,” freshman guard DJ Steward said. “Jon Scheyer did a really good job out there.”
To some, Wednesday’s contest served as a tryout of sorts for the head coach position once Krzyzewski retires. Whether Scheyer passed is unclear, but one thing is for certain—he didn’t fail.
“Great win, very proud,” Scheyer said. “It’s a great way to start off.”
We don’t know what exactly Scheyer is starting off, but for a certain cohort of Duke fans, they hope it’s his position as Coach K’s successor. And with his first win in the bag and Coach K’s 74th birthday just a month in the future, that is a very real possibility.