Wojcik excited for fresh start at Charleston
Doug Wojcik has been fortunate in his career to coach in places where basketball is taken very seriously.
In glancing at the former Wheeling Central Maroon Knights and Naval Academy standout’s resume places like North Carolina, Michigan State and Notre Dame jump out.
This weekend, Wojcik, 48, held his first official practice for his first season at a place with maybe not as big a name as those three universities, but it’s a place with just as much passion for the sport of basketball.
Wojcik was hired in April as the 22nd head coach at the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., after a seven-year stay as head coach the University of Tulsa.
“I was excited about this chance,” Wojcik said during a recent phone interview. “This has been a good basketball job and anyone who’s ever coached here has won.”
Wojcik, who was collegiate teammates with David Robinson at Navy, takes over the Cougars’ program from Bobby Cremmins, who retired after last season.
“Coach Cremmins left me a great team,” Wojcik said. “There’s been no controversy of any kind and the transition for both me and my family has been smooth. The kids have accepted me and we’re excited to get started.”
For a reason that many are still trying to figure out, Wojcik was fired at Tulsa despite becoming the university’s all-time winningest head coach with 147 victories. He won at a 60 percent clip and averaged better than 20 victories a season in his seven years.
He guided the Golden Hurricane to the championship game of two Conference USA Tournaments, a CBI Championship and two NIT berths.
On top of his on-court success, Wojcik was never hampered by any sort of NCAA issues and he graduated every player, who stayed in school through his entire eligibility.
“There’s no way to describe it in two or three sentences,” Wojcik said.
Unfortuately, today’s what have you done for me lately basketball coaching business is judged on trips to the NCAA Tournament. And to no fault of anyone – especially Wojcik – Conference USA, where Tulsa plays, has become a one-bid league and Memphis has dominated the conference.
“I was in Conference USA for seven years and it averaged 1.5 teams to the tournament a year,” Wojcik said. “I don’t necessarily agree with the benchmark of judging people on getting to the tournament or not, but that’s just my personal opinion.”
Wojcik is now coaching in the Southern Conference, which has never in its history had an at-large bid to the “Big Dance.”
So, knowing that, Wojcik went to work on building a schedule to help prepare his team for the conference tournament and to also bid an RPI impressive enough to possibly change the history.
“If you look at history, it still comes down to three days in March at that the conference tournament,” Wojcik said.
Charleston opens its season on Nov. 9 against Towson. The non-league schedule includes games against St. John’s, Baylor and Louisville. And as part of the ESPN Charleston Classic, the Cougars will take on either Murray State or Auburn.
“We’re going to be facing a phenomenal schedule,” Wojcik said. “It’s demanding, but there are a lot of opportunties there for us.”
One of the first hires Wojcik made when he accepted the Charleston position was of another Ohio Valley native.
Bishop Donahue High product Joe Wallace was hired as Wojcik’s Director of Basketball Operations. Wallace finished his degree at West Liberty and wanted to get into the college basketball business, so he headed to Tulsa and approached Wojcik.
“Joe’s been a staple for me,” Wojcik said. “He’s really been my rock for going on seven years now. He was the only holdover from my coaching staff because I really wanted a fresh start with everything. This can be a tough business to get into and Joe made the sacrifice, so I am going to reward him.”
As for the remainder of his staff, Wojcik found himself in a bit of predicament.
“It was a unique situation,” Wojcik said. “Coach Cremmins retired, so I had his staff looking for a job and I had my old staff looking for a job. I hired three guys I really didn’t know and it’s been kind of refreshing. You have to remember, (coaching) isn’t like corporate America. It’s a lifestyle job and I got lucky with three quality assistants.”
Wojcik also likes the makeup of his roster outside of the fact that depth could be an issue. He did get hired in time to bring in three players.
It doesn’t hurt to be coaching an Olympian. Senior guard Andrew Lawrence played for Great Britian in the London Olympics this past summer.
“That’s a great start there,” Wojcik said of Lawrence. “I think this team is just as talented as my teams at Tulsa, but I’ll know more in January. We’re a little thin with an eight or nine-man nucleus.”
Wojcik believes being back on the East Coast will allow him to get to the Ohio Valley a little more often to visit his parents, who still live on Wheeling Island.
“I drove my kids to a basketball camp at Michigan State and then on the drive back through I stopped in Wheeling and had lunch with my mom and dad,” Wojcik said. “It’s going to be a lot easier now and it’ll be easier for more people from West Virginia and the Ohio Valley to come down to South Carolina than when we were in Tulsa. My parents aren’t getting any younger, but it’s just hard. They’ve already been down here to visit and it’s a much easier drive now.”
As for what could be in store down the road, Wojcik isn’t sure.
“This is our sixth house in 14 years,” Wojcik said. “I’ve had a great career. It’s not fair to predict anything. This is a great situation. It’s a very good job in a beautiful place, and you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Wojcik’s younger brother Dave, who led Wheeling Central to a pair of state basketball championships, is currently on the coaching staff at Boise State University.
- WITH COLLEGE hoops practice just under way, West Liberty, which is ranked No. 1 in the country in Division II according to Division II Bulletin picked up a verbal commitment from Kody Bender. Bender is a senior at Elryia. The verbal was first reported, Twitter, by St. Clairsville graduate Kurt Stubbs, who is now a basketball writer with the website Dunkdog.com.
- MONROE CENTRAL baseball standout Kordell Antill, who was a key contributor for Beverly Lowell’s American Legion team this summer, has continued to shine on the diamond. Antill was chosen to play in a fall ball all-star game on Saturday in Columbus.