The world got its first inkling of what Duke men’s basketball will look like without Mike Krzyzewski steering the ship.
Jon Scheyer, the man tasked with, in his own words, being “the guy that follows the guy,” took to the podium in Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday, and was introduced by incoming athletic director Nina King as the head coach to follow Krzyzewski after his retirement at the end of the 2021-22 season.
“I do not expect this to be easy. I don't expect it to be easy. I don't expect to be given anything. We do not expect to be given anything. But I'm always gonna show up,” Scheyer said. “Always gonna show up and do whatever it takes to succeed at the highest level here and with the standard that’s been set at Duke.”
Scheyer emphasized the importance of showing up throughout his opening remarks, drawing back on his career as both a player and coach to show that it is a rare occasion for him to ever miss games.
"As I look back on what I'm most proud of in my career, it's the fact that I never missed a game or a practice as a player," Scheyer said.
And for anyone keeping score on his attendance sheet as a coach, he’s up to two missed games in his eight years, one of which when his wife went into labor and the other when his appendix burst.
In addition to the more intangible aspects of coaching, Scheyer is coming in as someone who has been praised by his peers as having an extremely high basketball IQ.
“I think back to the first time I met him, this was back in 2007, 2008, we were playing pickup," assistant coach Nolan Smith said. "You didn't know that this was coming but you knew he was gonna be a coach because of his high IQ and I’ve been around a lot of basketball players in my life, he’s one of the smartest I’ve ever come across."
“Basketball wise, the way he sees the game, incredible,” assistant coach Chris Carrawell said.
Many of Scheyer’s remarks pertained to the future of the program, but he also shared what it was like the moment he learned he would be Duke’s next head coach.
“This is no offense to anybody that I’ve ever been on the phone with but when I got a call and I saw Nina King’s name pop up it was the best phone call I’ve ever received in my life,” Scheyer said.
Scheyer addressed what was the elephant in the room during the press conference, and what will be the elephant in the room throughout his career—how he will deal with navigating through the tricky waters that come with following a head coach who has had such a legendary career.
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“The thing I’m not going to allow or pay attention to is what other people consider success. I feel as long as I’m on the same page with my president, my athletic director, our team, our staff, our coaching staff, that’s what’s important to me and I’m anxious for the opportunity to show what we can do, of course, but I’m not going to pay attention to the outside noise, the expectations,” Scheyer said. “I understand that comes with this job. I’m not running from it, not hiding from it, but I realize that's a part of it.”
As intimidating as it may be to follow Krzyzewski, Scheyer made sure to note that he is also in a unique situation of being able to ask the winningest coach in college basketball history for advice when he needs it.
“Coach K is one of one, he’s one of a kind and I would be unsuccessful if I tried to be him. Nobody can be Coach K,” Scheyer said. “Now with that said, I’m not stupid. If there’s something that I can go to him and talk to about, I have the best resource in the history of college basketball that I could ever have, I’m going to go to him. Our relationship stands on its own.”
Fortunately for Scheyer, he does have some experience in high pressure situations to draw on, and though neither come close to the tremendous level of attention he will get as head coach, his time as a player on the 2010 National Championship team and as an assistant on the 2015 squad at least dipped his toes in the waters.
Smith was alongside Scheyer on that 2010 title team as a player, and he will once again be by Scheyer’s side as the latter embarks on this new journey.
“To go through this with both Chris [Carrawell] and Nolan [Smith] gives me a great deal of confidence. We are on the same wavelength. We’ve had conversations—one, how we can be as supportive as possible this year...but two, build for the future and play off one another, just like we did on the court.”
It’s all the more important the three coaches are on the same page, considering two of Duke’s 2022 recruits are scheduled for visits in the month of June, with a third recruit's visit currently in the scheduling process. April of 2022 may still seem far away, but the work Scheyer and company do now will have a serious impact on the kind of success his first team will have.
There’s no doubt Scheyer has a mountain of work in front of him as he attempts to pull off a smooth transition into a new era of Duke men’s basketball. But as difficult as that road will be, you can guarantee Scheyer will be there every day.