Capel's return ignites Duke guessing game

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski might not retire for another, oh, six years? Seven years? Longer? The 64-year-old Coach K doesn't look ready to slow down anytime soon.

In other words, any conversation about his successor is by its very nature premature. But rest assured Duke fans will only ramp up the successor conversation when Krzyzewski -- who built, maintained, and dominated the program in every manner since he arrived as a young Army coach in 1980 -- slowly but surely moves closer to calling it a career. This is only natural.

Plenty of potential successors have been named in the past, from current head coaches (Johnny Dawkins, Tommy Amaker) to current long-time assistants (Chris Collins, Steve Wojciechowski). Lately, the speculation has shifted to former VCU and Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel, who returned to Duke as a special assistant last week. Newport News Daily Press sportswriter David Teel asks the question many Duke fans have no doubt considered: Does Capel's return put him somewhere near the succession plan?

At Duke, where he played point guard from 1993-97, Capel replaces Nate James as an assistant coach. James assumes an administrative role within the program.

Translation: Krzyzewski restructured his staff to bring Capel home.

The question becomes, is this merely a lifeline for Capel? Or, as Comrade Fairbank suggested upon hearing the news Sunday, is Capel being groomed for the corner office?

Yes, the question is there. The answer is still years away. Much will depend on what happens with the NCAA's ongoing investigation at Oklahoma: If Capel's reputation is sullied in the process, it would difficult to see him taking over at a program like Duke, which prides itself not only on winning but on doing so without incurring anything resembling NCAA violations.

Or maybe Capel isn't a candidate in the first place. Maybe we're all reading way, way too much into this. Maybe Duke's successor will come from outside Coach K's somewhat sparse coaching tree. We'll see. But unless Coach K calls it quits earlier than anyone expects, it'll be a while until we do.