- Jason King
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At some schools, coaches who average 20 wins a season and finish second or third in their conference are given raises.
At Tulsa, it cost Doug Wojcik his job.
Still, other than labeling his firing six months ago as a “total shocker,” Wojcik doesn’t see any point discussing what happened following his seventh season with the Golden Hurricane. Why dwell on the past, he says, when everything seems so perfect in the present.
“Sometimes things just happen for a reason,” Wojcik said.
Three weeks after losing his job at Tulsa, Wojcik was hired to replace Bobby Cremins at College of Charleston. In the Cougars, Wojcik inherits a team that returns four starters from last year’s 19-12 squad.
The job also allows him to return to the eastern part of the country, which he considers his home. Wojcik was born in Wheeling, West Virginia and played college ball at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he started for three years alongside Hall of Fame forward David Robinson.
Wojcik -- who has also been an assistant at Notre Dame, North Carolina and Michigan State -- said everything is in place to win at the College of Charleston. Being located in one of the nation’s desirable cities is a huge bonus -- and so is the fact that the Cougars play in a virtually brand new, state-of-the art venue. The $47 million TD Arena opened in 2008.
“It’s a great place to recruit to, without question,” Wojcik said. Kids from all over the country should want to come here. There are non-stop flights from Houston and Dallas. California kids love the climate.
“We’ve got to focus on our home and our region first, but after that there’s no reason we can’t branch out into Texas and California and Florida.”
As much as he’ll try to improve the roster, it’s not as if Wojcik will be coaching a cast of scrubs in his first season. Wojcik said he couldn’t have been more pleased with what he saw from the Cougars during a three-game tour of Canada last month.
College of Charleston went just 1-2 on the trip, but it was without its top player in guard Andrew Lawrence, who was one of only two current college players to compete in the 2012 Olympics. Saint Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova was the other. Lawrence represented his native Great Britain.
Wojcik said forwards Trent Wiedeman and Adjehi Baru will form one of the top frontcourts in the Southern Conference, and junior college transfer Anthony Thomas, a small forward, will help make up for the loss of Antwaine Wiggins, who averaged 15.9 points as a senior last season.
“He’s our most versatile player,” Wojcik said of Thomas, who chose the Cougars over Fresno State. “He can guard just about every position.”
Wojcik said he expects guard Anthony Stitt to share the backcourt with Lawrence. Stitt averaged 9.2 points off the bench last season.
One of the biggest differences under Wojcik will be an increased emphasis on defense, rebounding and toughness. Wojcik said the transition has been smooth.
“We’ve got high-character kids,” Wojcik said. “They’ve really bought in. The key as a coach is to be consistent with them and communicate with them.
“People can handle what’s expected of them as long as they know what’s expected of them. Plus, it’s not like things were broken when I got here. I took over a great situation.”
It also helps that Wojcik has received loads of support from his predecessors. Cremins -- who took a medical leave of absence in January and subsequently retired -- stops by workouts whenever he is in town. And longtime Cougars coach John Kresse, who led the program to four NCAA tournament berths from 1994-99, has been more than willing to offer advice when asked. Kresse is now a fundraiser at the school.
“He’s been great to me,” Wojcik said. “He’s really engaged me.”
Wojcik’s final two Tulsa teams finished second and third in Conference USA in what were supposed to be “rebuilding years” after the school lost two players (Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh) to the 2010 NBA draft.
Even more impressive is that Wojcik experienced that success at one of the league’s four private institutions (SMU, Rice and Tulane are the others). Only 3,000 undergrads at enrolled at Tulsa yet, strangely, schools officials cited “declining attendance” as their reason for firing Wojcik.
Difficult as it is to fathom, Wojcik knows he’s in a better place.
“I’ve moved on,” he said. “I couldn’t be any happier.”