Icon succession plans differ by school

Originally Published: May 21, 2007
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Syracuse's decision to put in writing that veteran assistant Mike Hopkins will be Jim Boeheim's eventual successor won't be a trend.

Not at Duke. Not at Connecticut. Not at Arizona.

Johnny Dawkins
Jason Moore/ZUMA Press/Icon SMIIs Johnny Dawkins the next Duke coach?
According to Duke assistant coach Johnny Dawkins, who is presumed (rightly or wrongly) to be the eventual successor to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, there have been no discussions about his succeeding Coach K.

Krzyzewski, 60, is showing no signs of retiring anytime soon. But clearly, whenever Coach K decides to retire, one would think he would have a rather large say in a successor based on his overall importance and influence at the school.

The succession plans, or lack thereof, at Arizona and Connecticut are a bit more intriguing.

Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood was clear about his post-Olson plan.

"This job is wide open when Lute retires," Livengood said. "We'll go find the best basketball coach that serves the University of Arizona basketball."

Livengood was particularly sensitive to any hint that the recent hiring of Kevin O'Neill -- a former Arizona assistant and former head coach at Marquette, Tennessee and the Toronto Raptors -- as an assistant coach was a signal of an Olson succession plan.

"We have not and will not do that," Livengood said. "Kevin knows that. There is no pretense at all. There has been a lot of speculation by a number of people with Kevin coming here."

But that is not the case.

Calhoun has the toughest choice for a successor, and that's why neither he nor the university will do it.

"Mine is more complex," said Calhoun in comparing his potential succession plan to Boeheim. "I've got Tom Moore [now at Quinnipiac], Dave Leitao [Virginia], Glen Miller [Penn], Howie Dickenman [Central Connecticut State] and Karl Hobbs [George Washington]. If Tom was here [as an assistant] when I retired, then I would want him to get the job, but they would never assure me."

Moore took the Quinnipiac job earlier this spring.

"I would think we have five or six candidates, and it would be very hard for me to differentiate between any of them," said Calhoun, who no longer has a top assistant candidate. "It wouldn't make sense for me to highlight one guy. We've never set up a situation like that with Jeff [Hathaway, Connecticut's athletic director]."

Lute Olson
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesLute Olson has taken a leave of absence from Arizona before. He stepped away to be with his wife, Bobbi, before she died in 2001.

And Hathaway has some clear ideas on the ideas.

"We have not had a conversation about a successor," Hathaway said. "I hope we don't have to have that conversation because we'd like to see Jim as the head basketball coach at the University of Connecticut for many more years. ... Jim Calhoun has coached here 21 years, and he may well be here for another decade. His fire and drive and passion for the university and for basketball hasn't changed a bit."

Former UConn athletic director Lew Perkins, now the AD at Kansas, said he and Calhoun used to play the game of speculating about successors at various universities but never had a discussion about the Connecticut job.

"We never talked about who was going to take his place in any meaningful way," Perkins said, adding "that conversation never took place."

Hathaway said, "What will work for one school may not work for another. We want our assistants to get head coaching positions and let them do their job and watch them go to the NCAA Tournament."

Miller, Hobbs, Leitao and Dickenman all coached their respective teams to the NCAA Tournament this past season.

Calhoun said that since longtime Syracuse assistant coach Bernie Fine and Boeheim are close in age, it made sense to look at Hopkins.

"It will be a hard choice [at UConn]," said Calhoun, 65. "I would like to keep it within our basketball family."

That's what has happened at North Carolina from Dean Smith to Bill Guthridge to Matt Doherty to Roy Williams. It has occurred at Michigan State from Jud Heathcote to Tom Izzo. New lines were created at Oklahoma State (Eddie to Sean Sutton), Washington State (Dick to Tony Bennett), Texas Tech (soon Bob to Pat Knight) and Drake (Tom to Keno Davis). There have been others in the past (the late Ray Meyer to his son Joey at DePaul and Gene to Murry Bartow at UAB).

The line of succession has been set at Syracuse. You can assume Duke will stay in its family. Connecticut will possibly do the same, as well. But don't be surprised to see Arizona go elsewhere.

But one thing is true: Syracuse's move to name a successor in writing without a definitive date is a trend that will begin and end with the Orange for the foreseeable future.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com