DURHAM — Jon Scheyer has won plenty of awards in his basketball career, but the perfect attendance ribbon is not one of them.
As he was being introduced Friday morning as the next Blue Devils head coach, replacing Mike Krzyzewski, who has led Duke for the last 40 years, Scheyer reflected on his time as a player and assistant to Coach K.
“As I look back on what I’m most proud of in my career,” he said, “it’s the fact that I never missed a game or practice as a player. And I would have never missed a game as a coach if it wasn’t for my wife deciding she was going to labor early on Jan. 29, 2018.”
Scheyer’s daughter Noa arrived on that day, while the Blue Devils were playing Notre Dame at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“I made it through the first half,” he recalled. “Then she … Noa, I guess … decided it was time.”
Scheyer left the arena and, while Duke cruised to a 22-point win, rushed to the hospital for the birth.
“So that’s a half,” Scheyer admitted. “Half a game.”
He wasn’t done confessing his truancy while a member of Krzyzewski’s staff, however.
“The other time we were playing in Syracuse (Feb. 1, 2020),” he said. “We’re going to the game, and I felt pain in my stomach. A few hours later, I woke up in a hospital in Syracuse, and I’d had my appendix taken out.”
So a game and a half in four years as a player and another six-plus years as a coach. Other than Cal Ripken, no one should cast any side-eye toward Scheyer’s attendance record.
“I say all that because I do not expect this to be easy,” he said of his new challenge, running Duke’s program following the 2021-22 season, Krzyzewski’s last. “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 going to show up. I’m always going to show up and do whatever it takes to succeed at the highest level here and with the standard that’s been set at Duke.”
The 33-year-old Scheyer — 34 when he takes over next year — will be the youngest coach in the ACC by nearly a decade. He was, however, the hand-picked choice of Krzyzewski, who emphasized the importance of a succession plan during his retirement press conference the day before.
Duke athletics director Kevin White said that even though Scheyer was the choice of Krzyzewski, the school still went through a search process to hire the next basketball coach. It took about 10 days, White said, after Coach K officially informed the school the upcoming season would be his last as head coach. Duke used a search firm to help, and Scheyer went through three rounds of interviews before, as White said to him, “You won the job.”
White emphasized that this wasn’t just a matter of rubber-stamping Coach K’s pick. Scheyer impressed the search committee during the process.
“He depicted a contemporary leader who enjoyed a great grasp of all things, analytics, transfer portal, NIL,” White said. “Jon has an unparalleled sense of both the current and futuristic highly competitive recruiting game and of all the strategies.”
There was one other big factor.
“Lastly, unequivocally, Jon has a phenomenal relationship with the players, some of which are here and some former players as well,” White said. “For within this ever-evolving landscape, it’s never been more important, if not absolutely critical, to have those kinds of relationships in place.”
After making the decision, the committee needed to inform their top choice of the news, which fell to White’s incoming replacement.
“His blood, sweat and tears are in these hardwoods,” said Nina King, who will step in as Duke AD when White retires this summer. King was the one who got to make the call to the next Blue Devils’ coach.
“This is no offense to anyone I’ve ever been on the phone with, but when I got a call and saw Nina King’s name pop up, it was the best phone call I’ve ever received in my life,” Scheyer said.
“It was the best news I’ve ever received. I was speechless. I didn’t really have the words. What a surreal moment. I think you immediately go back to the first time you ever pick up a ball, to the first time you were recruited to play here, to all the moments I’ve been through with those guys back there (teammates and current team members), the ups and the downs, the blood, sweat and tears, then it comes to that moment. I’ll never forget that in my life.”