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Duke president Vincent Price wanted Tommy Amaker to replace Mike Krzyzewski over Jon Scheyer, book says

Jon Scheyer is set to take over the Duke basketball program once Mike Krzyzewski retires following the 2021-22 college basketball season.

While that appears to be Coach K’s preferred succession plan, it may not have been the university’s first choice.

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Ian O’Conner detailed in his new book, “Coach K: The Rise and Reign of Mike Krzyzewski,” that Duke president Vincent Price wanted current Harvard coach Tommy Amaker to get the job. Amaker wanted the job as well.

However, as ESPN.com explains, Krzyzewski called Amaker to tell him his succession plan preference was Scheyer. Why? Because he wanted to avoid shaking up Duke’s existing coaching staff to create a spot for Amaker.

Sources told O’Connor that, eventually, Krzyzewski called Amaker in what the book describes as ‘a very difficult conversation’ with his former assistant, who had been gone from Duke for 25 years. During it, he told Amaker that if he came back, he’d have to be an assistant for a year (bumping another assistant off the bench) and that it would create an ‘awkward dynamic with Scheyer.’

‘Mike had to explain to Tommy why he couldn’t be the guy,’ one Duke source said, according to the book. ‘He can be Don Corleone when he needs to be.’ Eventually, Amaker decided not to take the job. Someone close to him, O’Connor writes, said he was ‘heartbroken’ not to get the job. Scheyer was eventually announced as the successor.

Amaker, 56, played at Duke from 1983 through 1987 and spent the 1988 through 1997 seasons as an assistant under Krzyzewski. He then took on head coaching jobs at Seton Hall (1997-2001), Michigan (2001-07) and Harvard (2007-present). He made the NCAA tournament once in his 10 years at Seton Hall and Michigan and reached it four times coming out of the Ivy League.

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With a career record of 437–287 and two decades of head coaching experience, Amaker was qualified for the job. Instead, Krzyzewski preferred to give Scheyer, a 34-year-old who played four seasons at Duke and has been an assistant there since 2014, the nod.

Scheyer has never been a full-time head coach at any level, but he replaced Krzyzewski against Boston College on Jan. 6, 2021 while Coach K dealt with COVID-19. The Blue Devils won 83-82.

Neither Krzyzewski nor Amaker chose to comment to O’Connor for his book.

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