College basketball: Hirings of Chizik, Coach K similar
By Caulton Tudor
News & Observer columnist
When the reports become official that Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs really had hired Iowa State’s Gene Chizik as the Tigers’ new football coach, I couldn’t help but think back to the day when then-Duke athletics director Tom Butters introduced Mike Krzyzewski as the basketball successor to Bill Foster.
There are similarities that go beyond the two coaches’ unusual last names.
Chizik, off the Mack Brown coaching tree, won five games in two seasons at Iowa State. Krzyzewski, a Bob Knight protege, was coming off a 9-17 record at Army in the 1979-80 season when he got the phone call from Butters.
Both coaches are defensive specialists at heart. Krzyzewski was jumping into Dean Smith’s domain. Chizik is invading Nick Saban territory.
The gamble on a long shot paid off royally for Duke and Butters, who said he put less emphasis on Krzyzewski’s 73-59 record at West Point than his leadership abilities. Jacobs said much the same about his hire.
But new coaches got more of a grace period when Krzyzewski arrived at Duke. Entering his fourth season, his teams had gone 38-47, but Butters still had his back publicly and privately.
A losing record after three seasons these days can get almost any coach fired, and Chizik will be under intense pressure from the start. His predecessor, Tommy Tuberville suffered from comparisons to Saban at Alabama.
The safer, smarter move for Jacobs would have been to hire Buffalo’s Turner Gill. Jacobs played a hunch ó maybe little more than a gut hunch. But in doing so, he put his job on the line. If Chizik flops, Jacobs likely will suffer extensive collateral damage.