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Part II: The 'Coach K disciple rankings' thread

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In Part I, our staff discussed if/when Northwestern head coach Chris Collins would leave Northwestern and where his stock is nationally as a head coach. In the continuation of our discussion, we hit on

Ben Goren: I’d like to know where y’all think Chris Collins falls in the power rankings of "coaches most likely to take over for Coach K."  A bunch of former Dukies are doing real well in the coaching world right now. Brey at Notre Dame, Amaker at Harvard, Woj at Marquette (at least he’s recruiting pretty well), even Dawkins at Stanford is doing better now. Is Collins really that high on the list for future Duke coaches?  Even if Duke wanted to keep it in the family, he seems very far away from being able to take the reigns at his alma mater.

Henry Bushnell: So this is something Josh and I talked about. Bringing up Brey is interesting, because he’s not part of this new generation that people talk about as potential successors. If Duke couldn’t get its top targets, and if the higher-ups there didn’t think Collins/Wojo/Dawkins/Amaker were ready, I could see Brey being the choice (provided he would be open to leaving Notre Dame). That’s where it also depends on how soon K retires. If it’s next year, Brey is much more likely; if K has five or six more years in him, not so much.

As for where Collins stands among the other former assistants, I don’t think he’s at the top. But I also don’t think any of the other three have been super impressive. Certainly not Dawkins. Stanford is a great job, and his success has been very limited in seven years. Dawkins is also 51 years old. I think he’s out of the running. Collins and Wojo are probably on a similar level right now, and it’ll all depend on what they do with their respective programs over the next few years. Neither is ready to take over right now though. I think that means Amaker tops that group. But I might even put Jeff Capel above all of them. Capel is actually a year younger than Collins, and did have moderate success at Oklahoma, a pretty big program. He also just turned down the Arizona State job to stay at Duke as an assistant, which has to at least be a sign that he thinks he has a shot at replacing K.

I think the top candidates could be from outside the family though (and I’d look at Capel as an intriguing mix between in the family and outside of the family, because he climbed the coaching ranks elsewhere before returning to Duke). Josh, I know you had one name that you thought would be at the top of the list, and I think I agree.

Josh Rosenblat: The top choice for Duke has to be the Boston Celtics' Brad Stevens. And I do think there’s a chance Stevens would take the job. After him, though, I think Capel would be the guy. Collins would get a call, and maybe even a meeting, but I think he would have to do some pretty big things at Northwestern to actually secure the post.

Zach Pereles: I have a hard time seeing Collins back in Durham unless MAJOR changes happen in Evanston, and, to me, those major changes, in not only record but also basketball atmosphere will take a while. How long? I don’t know. But Collins currently leads a program that is trying to build (not even rebuild, because Northwestern’s never really had a building) itself up from the perennial cellar of the Big Ten. Collins has shown commitment on the recruiting trails and that should, in theory, help the on-court product. But you also have to consider Duke basketball culture. Apart from both playing in relatively small gyms and both playing for an academically-impressive private institution, Duke and Northwestern basketball couldn’t be more different. Recruiting, fanbase, everything. And that takes time to establish. Until Collins gets Northwestern basketball culture even somewhat close to that, I think a transition to Duke would be very turbulent, even if it’s as Coach K’s successor. I just don’t see neither the coach nor school succeeding if Collins were to take the Duke job anytime soon, or any time at all unless Northwestern basketball culture changes immensely.

Kevin Dukovic: I agree with Zach here. If Coach K retired today Collins wouldn’t make it past the first round of interviews. But maybe in 5 years, which is a realistic retirement date, Collins could be the favorite. That is if he enjoys more success with Northwestern of course. But I want to pose what seems like a trivial question on the surface: If Collins were (somehow) offered the Duke position tomorrow, would he take it?

The obvious answer is "yes," right? He would almost certainly take the job because, who wouldn’t? But I wouldn’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion. I’ll go as far as to estimate that Collins wouldn’t accept the job without hesitation. And I wouldn’t be shocked if he declined it.

Before you go all Steve Ballmer crazy on me, hear me out. Collins is already two years deep into this whole "process" he kept referring to last season. No one would blame him for ditching NU for Duke. But I think he wants to prove that he can build a program like Duke. That’s arguably more impressive than winning a championship for an already established program. I think Collins wants to pave his own path. Instead of being known as Coach K’s replacement--someone who inherited one of the greatest college basketball programs of all time--he wants to be the next "Coach K"--someone who develops such a powerhouse all on his own. It’s like inheriting all of your wealth versus making your own fortune. It would be pretty sweet to inherit a fortune, but there’s something to be said about earning one instead. It’s unlikely Collins will even get the opportunity to coach a storied program like Duke any time soon. So for now, he’ll just have to focus on creating his own.

Bushnell: Yeah, to wrap up the Duke talk, so much of it depends on when K retires. If it’s soon, I think they’ll have to look elsewhere. This is one of the top jobs, if not the top job in college basketball, and even one of the top jobs in basketball… period. There’s no way they could justify taking Collins over the other options that would be available to them.

Okay, maybe they could justify it with the "family" thing, but I don’t think it’d be the right decision.