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Coaching search profile: Nate James

One of two Duke assistants who could be up for a job, what makes Nate James intriguing?

NCAA Basketball: Marist at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Nate James

Age: 41

Current job: Associate Head Coach, Duke

Previous jobs: n/a

Career head coaching record: n/a

NCAA Tournament Appearances (record): n/a

Evidence of recruiting skills: As Associate Head Coach, Nate James has received credit as the lead recruiter for Duke players Grayson Allen, Marques Bolden, and others.

Items of interest: James was a two-time co-captain on Duke and has won a national championship both as a player and as a coach. He is married to actress Bobbi Baker.

On court: We do not know, but Coach K’s Duke teams are usually good about playing with some solid basketball concepts:

  • force opponents off the three-point line...
  • but defend the rim, and
  • don’t turn the ball over.

Each Duke assistant who gets a new job is a little different, so we do not know what a James team would look like. We do know that LaSalle was interested in him last year, but chose Villanova assistant Ashley Howard.

Why he’d be a good fit: The Athletic Director Mike Cragg knows Nate James from Duke, and James has been on the sidelines since 2009. He’s been credited with working with a number of the Duke big men, including the Plumlees, Jahlil Okafor, Wendell Carter and more.

Previous Duke assistants have made big leaps — such as Chris Collins to Northwestern, Johnny Dawkins to Stanford, for example.

Why it wouldn’t work: No experience as a head coach is tough to stomach, post Chris Mullin. That fact should not be a deal-breaker; it’s bad to make knee-jerk “opposite of THAT GUY” decisions.

Still, the Big East has experienced coaches, and a first-time coach seems like a bad idea — and requires some patience.

How will James adjust to recruiting players who aren’t in the top-10 of the rankings? How will he find an impact player in the Tri-state area’s recruiting circles? How will he know when he has a diamond in the rough?

What’s getting in the way: Inexperience. The idea of Nate James will need to be sold hard through the media. James is more experienced than Jon Scheyer, which could be a plus.

Final word: Too soon.