Mike Krzyzewski pushed Tommy Amaker to Duke succession


Duke University wanted to hire Harvard basketball coach Tommy Amaker last spring to replace Mike Krzyzewski, even going so far as to offer him the job.

However, Coach K dissuaded his former player and assistant from taking him on so he could ensure his preferred candidate succeeded him, according to a new book by New York Post sports columnist Ian O’Connor.

In “Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski”, O’Connor reports that Duke offered the job to Amaker, the former Seton Hall and Michigan coach, before hiring Duke’s assistant Jon Scheyer to resume Blue Devils decorated program after Krzyzewski, 75, finishes current season – his 42n/a at school.

In retirement, Coach K believed he would retain more control of the program through Scheyer, 34, than Amaker, 56, sources told O’Connor for the book. Scheyer never coached elsewhere, while Amaker left Duke in 1997 for Seton Hall.

Columnist Ian O’Connor’s book on Coach K comes out next week.

O’Connor reports that Krzyzewski held a Zoom call with Amaker last year and had what a source described as “a very difficult conversation” with him. Coach K explained to Amaker that if he left Harvard to join the Duke team as the pending successor for the 2021-22 season, the move would force the demotion of a Blue Devils assistant and “create a annoying dynamic with Scheyer”. Realizing he didn’t have his mentor’s blessing, Amaker left the call “heartbroken”, according to an insider.

“Mike had to explain to Tommy why he couldn’t be the guy,” a Duke source said. “He can be Don Corleone when he needs to be.”

A five-time national champion and the NCAA’s winningest coach with nearly 1,200 combined wins at Duke and Army, Krzyzewski said the transfer of power to Scheyer, a star of his 2010 championship team, represented “a continuity of excellence “which he first learned was important in a succession plan as a West Point student. Scheyer’s first Duke recruiting class is ranked No. 1 in the nation. Amaker is in his 15and year at Harvard, which he integrated into a still strong Ivy League team.

Tommy Amaker and Coach K in 1986.
Tommy Amaker and Coach K in 1986.
NCAA Photos via Getty Images
Tommy Amaker
Tommy Amaker
Sportswire icon via Getty Images

Four of Harvard’s five NCAA Tournament appearances in school history have come under Amaker. The team made March Madness appearances in 2012-15, upsetting New Mexico as the No. 14 seed in 2013 and Cincinnati as the No. 12 seed in 2014.

Krzyzewski and Amaker declined to be interviewed for the book. The senior Duke official who conducted the research declined to comment on O’Connor.

By announcing his retirement in advance, writes O’Connor, Krzyzewski had all but guaranteed that his personal choice to succeed him would land the Duke job.

Tommy Amaker at Duke in 1986.
Tommy Amaker at Duke in 1986.
NCAA Photos via Getty Images

“Mike is the ultimate orchestrator,” said one close friend. “He wakes up in the morning trying to find ways to stay in front of you. Sometimes Coach K has to eat his little ones, and Tommy Amaker just got eaten.

New York Post

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