- Duke Basketball Database
Former Duke standout Nate James has been a member of the Blue Devils’ staff since the 2007-08 season, serving as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for one year and spending three seasons as an assistant coach prior to being named a special assistant on April 8, 2011. James returned to the role of assistant coach prior to the 2013-14 season after the departure of former associate head coach Chris Collins.
The Washington, D.C., native is joined on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff by fellow former Duke team captains Jeff Capel (associate head coach) and Jon Scheyer (assistant coach).
In five total seasons as an assistant coach, James has helped the Blue Devils to a 158-30 (.840) record with three ACC Tournament titles and NCAA championships in both 2010 and 2015. Duke has earned three No. 1 seeds, a No. 2 seed and a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament during James’ five seasons as an assistant coach.
Duke has averaged 30.4 wins per season since James joined the staff prior to the 2007-08 campaign. During that time, the Blue Devils have also produced a total of 13 NBA Draft picks, including 11 first-round picks and six lottery selections.
With James on the bench, the 2014-15 Duke team featured one of the nation’s most effective offensive attacks, ranking third nationally in both field goal percentage and adjusted offensive efficiency, as well as sixth nationally in scoring offense.
Following the program’s fifth national championship, three Duke players – Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones – were taken in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft for just the second time in program history.
From 2009-11, James helped lead Duke to three consecutive ACC Tournament championships, winning at least 30 games in each of those three seasons.
As a coach who won a national championship with the Blue Devils as a player in 2001, James’ insight helped the Duke squad as it made its run to the NCAA title in 2010 along with ACC regular season and tournament championships. That season, James helped guide one of the nation’s top defenses as the Blue Devils held opponents to just 61.0 points per game and ranked 14th nationally in rebound margin.
James played in 135 games with 63 starts from 1997-01. He scored 1,116 points, had 500 rebounds and shot 47.3 percent from the floor for his career. While known primarily for his defensive and rebounding prowess, James made 111-career three-point field goals. Duke won or shared the ACC regular-season championship in all five years that James was on the team, a feat achieved by no other player in league history.
A two-time team captain, James brought a warrior mentality to the court that set an example for his teammates and led to numerous Duke victories. Sometimes that meant scoring, as in the 26 points he had against Texas to help Duke win the 2001 Preseason NIT or the career-high 27 that he scored against Clemson later that year. James’ warrior spirit usually showed in the way he went after loose balls and rebounds, the way he defended and the way he attacked weight training workouts. As a senior, he was named to the ACC All-Defensive Team and garnered third-team All-ACC recognition from the league’s media.
One of James’ most significant contributions to the 2001 NCAA crown was the way he handled his move out of the starting lineup late in the season. James had started 29 consecutive games heading into the regular season finale against North Carolina, but Krzyzewski wanted to rework his lineup with James coming off the bench following an injury to Carlos Boozer. James accepted the move and averaged better than 24 minutes per game in Duke’s nine postseason victories.
James’ unselfishness prompted Krzyzewski to state that James may have been the biggest winner of all: “When he walked off the court in Minneapolis, he was not only a champion in basketball – Nate James was a champion in life.”
With 117 career victories, James is among the winningest players in school history, standing in a tie for 10th in ACC history along with Danny Ferry, Andre Dawkins and Quinn Cook. Duke posted a winning percentage of .867 (117-18) with James on the court, placing him seventh on the Duke career list. Along with his five ACC regular-season championships, he was also a member of three ACC Tournament championship squads at Duke.
James also made his mark on the Duke record books as a player. He is one of 64 players in program history to score more than 1,000-career points and now ranks 53rd on the program’s all-time list with 1,116 points in his career. He is one of 47 players in Duke history with 500-career rebounds and ranks 23rd all-time at Duke with 147-career steals.
Following his career at Duke, James played professionally in the United States and overseas from 2002-07. After being named the Carolinas Basketball League Most Valuable Player in 2003, James spent various parts of the next five seasons playing in Bosnia, Brazil, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Philippines, Poland and Russia. He was also with the Philadelphia 76ers during their training camp in 2004.
In the off-season, James has directed a summer basketball camp with former Blue Devil Chris Carrawell in Durham. The camp teaches the importance of fundamentals in the game of basketball and life.
James earned his degree in sociology, with a minor in African-American studies, from Duke in 2001. He is married to Bobbi Baker-James and currently resides in Durham. The couple has one son, Nathaniel Drake James III.