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How Coach K’s retirement completes the transformation of the Tobacco Road Rivalry

We knew this was coming, but I don’t think any of us knew it was coming this soon.

Duke v North Carolina Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In case you have been under a rock over the last 24 hours, Duke’s Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski officially announced yesterday that he will be retiring after the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. This announcement isn’t a complete surprise, as people started to speculate that his time at Duke was coming to an end after Roy Williams announced his retirement.

While I myself as well as the Tar Heel fan base universally hate Coach K, it is impossible to overlook what he was able to accomplish during his stay in Durham. As of right now Krzyzewski has won five national titles, made it to the Final Four 12 times, won the ACC Tournament 15 times, and the regular season 12 times. He is a five-time ACC Coach of the Year, and has won three Olympic gold medals. Finally, Coach K held a 23-19 record against Roy Williams, and a 14-26 record against Dean Smith.

While Coach K undoubtedly had trouble taking down Coach Smith, it truly was when Roy Williams arrived in 2003 that the Tobacco Road Rivalry reached new levels. There were countless classic games, numerous buzzer-beaters, blood, sweat, tears, broken noses, and broken souls following losses. Both teams took the rivalry as serious as any fan could ever ask for, and the result always came in the form of two (and sometimes three) of the best games during each college basketball season. Unfortunately, when Roy Williams retired we knew that things were going to be different immediately. UNC lost their Hall of Famer, and Hubert Davis’ job this coming season is to now figure out a way to send Coach K into retirement with a 0-2 record in this new era. So then what do the Tar Heels get to prepare for after next season?

Current Duke assistant coach, and future head coach Jon Scheyer.

Sticking with their undoubtedly-ripped-off-but-we’re-not-going-there-right-now Brotherhood brand, the Blue Devils decided to hire their associate head coach in waiting to take over Coach K’s throne. Scheyer, much like Hubert Davis, was a former player for his school, and he helped Duke win the national championship back in 2010. He has only been an associate head coach for Krzyzewski since 2018, which is when former associate head coach and current Pitt head coach Jeff Capel took a new job.

Hubert Davis and Jon Scheyer being the new faces of the Tobacco Road Rivalry is probably the best way that this entire situation could’ve played out. Rather than hiring externally, both teams hired former players and current assistant coaches in order to maintain some kind of continuity in their programs. They both have already been out on the recruiting trail for their teams, they are both familiar with their predecessors systems, and as former players they understand what the rivalry means to players, fans, and the schools in general. Considering the fact that names like Shaka Smart, Brad Stevens, and Jay Wright were thrown around when Roy Williams and Coach K announced their retirements, things could’ve looked extremely different had either team went with an outside guy. Truly I believe that both teams handled their respective situations beautifully, and it’ll be exciting to see what is next for the greatest rivalry in sports.

One mind-blowing aspect of the 2022-23 season is that this will be the first time since 1981 that neither head coach has led a team to a national championship. While both Davis and Scheyer helped their predecessors in different roles, neither fan base will hold bragging rights when it comes to either coach for the unforeseeable future. There are a good amount of people that weren’t even alive when Dean Smith won his first national title, and so this will be new and exciting territory for quite a few fans, and it will be really interesting to see which coach can pull off a national title first. That is, of course, if they both stick around long enough to get the job done.

While it is tough to see two of the best coaches in college basketball retire, Coach K’s announcement yesterday sets the stage for a whole new chapter in the UNC/Duke rivalry. No more showing off enormous ring collections, no more showing off gold medals, and no more bragging about head-to-head records for either coach. The slate will be wiped clean, and while the overall 141-114 lead that UNC holds over Duke will live on, the Hubert Davis vs. Jon Scheyer record book will start off 0-0. It’ll be exciting, it will be stressful, and most importantly, it will be fueled by a lot of hatred for the opposing shade of blue. With all due respect, Coach K, we can skip over your farewell tour and get right to the good stuff.