Nothing lasts forever. Not even on Tobacco Road, where college basketball seems to have never changed.
This offseason, it changed a lot.
First, Roy Williams decided he’d had enough of Tar Heel basketball and announced his retirement from the sideline gig at North Carolina. That message resonated a few miles away at Duke where Mike Krzyzewski dropped the other shoe and announced he would leave the Blue Devils after one last season.
It will be culture shock next year when the sidelines for the North Carolina-Duke rivalry games will belong to Hubert Davis for the Tar Heels and Jon Scheyer for the Blue Devils. Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke and the Deandome at North Carolina just won’t seem the same.
In college basketball, the rosters are always turning over. Players come and go. Usually, though, coaches are staples, especially old school ones like Coach K and Williams. They signed on for marathons, not sprints.
Krzyzewski came to Duke in 1980 after a brief stint at West Point. And he stayed, ringing up five national championships and becoming college basketball’s winningest coach with 1,170 victories all but 73 of them at Durham.
There have been 12 Final Four appearances and a record 15 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament championships. And don’t forget Olympic gold medal titles in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
At age 74, Coach K has earned some lounger time. He will leave the game after 42 seasons. Roy Williams logged 33.
Of all those games, the ones Coach K almost certainly will remember best were the annual showdowns with next-door neighbor North Carolina. Matching wits with Dean Smith and, after a brief interlude, with Roy Williams were annual challenges which he relished. These were battles for bragging rights and on Tobacco Road, that’s serious business.
The departures of Williams and next year of Krzyzewski signals significant turnover in the ranks of iconic coaches.
Jim Boeheim, looking like a physics professor instead of a basketball coach, has coached forever and is still in place at Syracuse and Tom Izzo still stalks the sidelines at Michigan State. But elsewhere, younger coaches are surfacing, signing on for the grueling job of mentoring teen-agers, guiding them into adulthood and all the time winning those games.
Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski have done their share of that heavy lifting. Now, longtime assistants Hubert Davis and Jon Scheyer get their chances.