David Teel">

Is Capel's return to Duke part of Krzyzewski's eventual exit strategy?

As coaching trees go,

Mike Krzyzewski

's is hardly a towering pine. It's not Charlie Brown's Christmas shrub, but suffice to say the branches could use some work.

All of which add intrigue to Jeff Capel's return to


and the perennial speculation as to who will succeed Krzyzewski as the Blue Devils' basketball leader.

A former assistant to his father at Old Dominion and head coach at VCU, Capel was fired in March after five seasons as


's big whistle. This just two years after guiding the Sooners and

Blake Griffin

to the

NCAA tournament

's Elite Eight — Oklahoma lost to eventual national champion North Carolina.

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?

Not to rush Krzyzewski into his rocking chair. He's a young 64 and a year removed from his fourth national championship at Duke.

Moreover, he's a year away from pursuing a second consecutive gold medal with the United States Olympic team.

So clearly, the man hasn't lost his mojo. But sooner rather than later, barring Paterno-like longevity, Krzyzewski will retire and, presumably, have considerable say in choosing his successor.

But unless Krzyzewski and athletic director Kevin White have agreed to a timeline, I doubt either has settled on Duke's next coach. Candidates, yes. The heir apparent, no.

Not that Capel isn't credible. In 2002, VCU made him Division I's youngest head coach at 27, and during his four seasons the Rams were 79-41 and reached the 2004 NCAA tournament.

Oklahoma hired Capel to replace Kelvin Sampson, who had bolted for Indiana, and in Capel's five seasons the Sooners were 96-69 with two


appearances. But after Griffin headed to the


, Oklahoma declined markedly with a 27-36 combined record the past two years, 9-23 in the

Big 12


It's the Sooners' first back-to-back losing seasons since 1966 and '67. But Capel is far from the only former Duke player and/or assistant to stumble.

With a law degree and a natural way with people, Quin Snyder once seemed Krzyzewski's ideal successor. Not now.

Snyder, a point guard on three Blue Devils Final Four teams, coached Missouri to four consecutive NCAAs, including a regional final in 2002. But NCAA sanctions for recruiting infractions and a 42-42 record in his final two-plus years prompted Snyder's late-season dismissal in 2006. He's now assisting

Philadelphia 76ers


Doug Collins


Tommy Amaker, the point guard of Krzyzewski's first Final Four team, in 1986, guided Seton Hall to the 2000 Sweet 16, but that's his only NCAA tournament in 14 years as a head coach. Michigan fired Amaker in 2007 after six seasons and a 43-53

Big Ten

mark, and he's spent the last four year elevating Harvard — the Crimson lost the 2011

Ivy League

championship to a Princeton buzzer-beater.

Duke's No. 2 career scorer, Johnny Dawkins, served as a Devils assistant from 1998-2008 before heading to


, in theory a logical stepping stone to replacing Krzyzewski. But in Dawkins' three seasons, the Cardinal are 49-48, 20-34 in the Pacific 10, and haven't even made the



Keep in mind, Krzyzewski does not shelter or micromanage his staff. Conversely, given his myriad pursuits outside the program, he leans on his assistants more than most.

That leads some to peg long-time present staffers Chris Collins (11 seasons) and Steve Wojciechowski (12 seasons) as viable possibilities. But how to pick between the two former Duke teammates, both of whom carry the title associate head coach?

Most important, would White or whomever is leading the athletic department at the time, turn over a top-five program to a rookie head coach?

The hunch here is no, leading us to the most qualified successor within the Devils family.

Mike Brey didn't attend Duke and hasn't taken a team beyond the NCAA regional semifinals. But in 16 seasons as a head coach, five at Delaware and the last 11 at

Notre Dame

, this former Krzyzewski assistant (1987-95) has forged a first-rate reputation.

Brey's teams have appeared in nine NCAA tournaments and five NITs. He was 60-30 in the America East and is 112-72 in the

Big East

since replacing Matt Doherty at Notre Dame.

The athletic director who hired Brey for the Fighting Irish? None other than White.

Maryland approached Brey last week while searching for

Gary Williams

' replacement. Brey, a Maryland native, elected to remain at Notre Dame.

If the timing were right, could he also resist Duke?

David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP