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First-time Duke coach Jon Scheyer on filling the shoes of his legendary predecessor Coach K: "Never been afraid of a challenge"

Duke's rookie coach has huge shoes to fill
Duke's rookie coach, Jon Scheyer, is filling the shoes of his mentor, legendary Coach K 06:29

To the list of life's certainties — death and taxes — you can add Duke University's presence in the NCAA March Madness tournament.

The Blue Devils already notched one victory, winning against Oklahoma's Oral Roberts University on Thursday night. While their presence in the tournament is nothing new — this is their 45th time playing in it — they have a new face leading the team this year after legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski retired last year after 42 seasons with the team. 

For former Duke player and new head coach Jon Scheyer, it's the start of a new era. 

"I've never been afraid of a challenge, and I understand what a challenge this is. I understand the incredible expectations, but at the same time, I think our program is set up for amazing success," he told "CBS Mornings." 

Scheyer met Krzyzewski, also known as Coach K, as a teenager. He was recruited from his suburban college high school and helped Duke win the 2010 NCAA tournament, its fourth win. (They added another victory in 2015 for a total of five tournament wins.) In 2014, he joined the Blue Devils' coaching staff and had the chance to learn from Krzyzewski. 

Duke University's legendary Coach K on his decision to retire from coaching college basketball 04:56

"I don't know if anybody in their right minds ... thinks that 'Alright, I'm going to be the one to, I want to succeed Coach K,'" Scheyer said. "But of course, when that opportunity came about, I was all in." 

While Krzyzewski is no longer coaching the team, he's still Scheyer's mentor. 

"I love him. He's family to me and, you know, his support means the world. He's the best motivator. He has a feel, his ability to relate and connect. That's what separated him and made him a special coach," Scheyer said. "Obviously the Xs and Os and all that take care of (themselves). But for me, you know, I pride myself on relationships, you know, just the connection with our guys ... being able to get them ready to play, to believe in themselves for the highest possible level that they can." 

Scheyer has huge shoes to fill, but it's been a fairy-tale season so far: He led the team to 23 wins in the regular season, setting a school record for the most wins in a first season. However, he's not resting on his laurels. 

Jon Scheyer
Jon Scheyer in 2019. Lance King / Getty

"I'm going to use after the year to reflect and be proud of the accomplishments. Right now, (my) focus is on the next game and making a special run here," he said. 

While Duke has a long history of doing well in March Madness — they've made it to the Final Four 17 times and have 119 game wins in the tournament — Scheyer said that the team is just getting started. 

"For me, it's all about controlling what you can control," he said. "I promise my expectations are higher or as high as anybody from the outside about our success that we can have, as far as wins and losses in this program. The margin is thin. The 'little plays' (can) turn out to be the difference in winning or losing, and so for us, handling that the right way, controlling what we can control, we'll put ourselves in a position to make a special run. And that's what it's all about for me." 

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