Coach K ready for 30th season at Duke

The highlight of Duke‘s first preseason practice came when Nolan Smith pulled off his baggy uniform to reveal a skintight tank top and short shorts.

Wearing that vintage uniform, he looked like Johnny Dawkins. And Mike Krzyzewski wouldn’t mind if the guard played like Dawkins, too.

The Hall of Fame coach’s 30th season leading the Blue Devils promises to be one full of throwbacks and nostalgic reminders of those three national titles and 10 trips to the Final Four for the man who arrived from Army with a hard-to-say last name and fought through some rough early years to evolve into Coach K.

“There was never a 30-year plan. Early on, there was not a five-year plan – there was a weekly plan, a daily plan,” Krzyzewski said. “I’ve loved being here for this time, and I think I’ll be here for a while. I don’t have a 32-year plan or a 34-year plan.

“I don’t think I’ll catch (Joe) Paterno or (Bobby) Bowden, but that’s a whole different horse to ride,” he added, referring to the octogenarian football coaches at Penn State and Florida State. “The excitement of starting here, the energy, is really good. It gets you going.”

Especially with this roster.

If the Atlantic Coast Conference’s co-favorites can find some answers in the backcourt to complement the bulkiest team of Krzyzewski’s tenure, it could make a run at the same kinds of accomplishments achieved by Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and all the other stars of the coach’s three decades on the Duke bench.

A program that for years was defined by its backcourt – think Bobby Hurley and J.J. Redick – has changed its philosophy somewhat because only two guards return who were in last year’s rotation, Smith and Jon Scheyer.

The 3-point shot will remain an important part of the Blue Devils‘ game, especially now that Krzyzewski plans to keep ACC preseason player of the year Kyle Singler exclusively on the perimeter.

But with 6-foot-10 brothers Mason and Miles Plumlee, senior sixth-man Lance Thomas and 7-1 backup Brian Zoubek in the paint, Duke hopes to be able to dump the ball inside and beat teams that way, too.

“We’re a very tall team … our biggest team since I’ve been here,” Krzyzewski said. “But I think we’re very athletic, and I would hope that we’ll be a very good rebounding team. It’ll be a very different team than we’ve had here for a while, in the fact that we’re changing how we do our offense and some of the things we do defensively to kind of match the talents of who we have.”

Last year marked a revival of the Duke program that got back to doing so many of the things that became commonplace during Krzyzewski’s three decades. The Blue Devils briefly returned to No. 1 nationally, won the ACC tournament for the eighth time in 11 years and made it to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament – the first time for any of those things since Redick’s senior season in 2005-06.

Four players with significant starting experience are back from the team that hit its stride after a midseason switch that moved Scheyer to point guard and inserted shooting guard Elliot Williams into the starting lineup.

Williams is gone, having transferred to Memphis for family reasons, but the job at the point remains Scheyer’s after a junior season in which he scored nearly 15 points per game while making a team-best 38.5 percent of his 3s.

“Just learning different ways to create shots, whether it be a point guard on me, a shooting guard, just knowing how to do that,” Scheyer said. “I felt comfortable last year, but I feel really comfortable this year. I know what to do. I know where guys need to be on offense.”

The Blue Devils still must find someone to replace Gerald Henderson, who averaged 16.5 points before leaving school early for the NBA. But they feel confident Singler, Scheyer and Smith can pick up that scoring slack and are hoping freshman guard Andre Dawkins comes along quickly enough to provide energy and touch from the outside.

“It’s not so much a thin perimeter,” Krzyzewski said. “The way we’re playing, it lends itself even more to (Dawkins’) strengths because he’s going to have big guys screening for him, coming off ready to shoot.”