<
>

Steve Wojciechowski's turn to step up

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Making the transition from assistant coach to head coach is never easy.

It's Steve Wojciechowski's turn to make that leap, from Hall of Famer Mike Krzyzewski's right-hand man to running a Marquette Golden Eagles program which is rich in tradition. When I think of Marquette, I think back to the days of one of my favorite coaches, Al McGuire, to the likes of Hank Raymonds, Rick Majerus, Tex Winter, Kevin O'Neill, Bob Dukiet, Mike Deane, Tom Crean (who took Marquette to its most recent Final Four) and most recently, Buzz Williams.

Williams created a lot of excitement. Crean had a mind-set that his team worked so hard during intense practices that it translated in game situations. Marquette also has a great fan base and a great love of the game.

Now the Golden Eagles have a new coach they are going to love.

Wojciechowski, better known as "Wojo," is all about giving his best. As a player, he got the most out of his talent. He pursued his dreams and goals to the best of his ability. And Krzyzewski has raved about what it was like to have Wojciechowski as a player and as an assistant.

He waited for this opportunity, passing up other chances to become a head coach. He picked a school in the Big East that was a bit disappointing last season, falling short of its lofty preseason expectations.

Williams chose to leave for Virginia Tech, creating an opening that Wojciechowski felt was a great fit. Now Wojo steps into a league that has quality teams, like Villanova, Georgetown, Xavier, Creighton and St. John's. It is not going to be cupcake city competing against those clubs.

Wojo has assembled an interesting coaching staff. Former Duke teammate Chris Carrawell, ex-Gator player Brett Nelson and former Drake head coach Mark Phelps are his assistants. Phelps will be able to provide experience in Wojo's first season as a head coach.

Former Marquette star Travis Diener is director of player personnel, while another former Dukie, Tyler Thornton, is a graduate manager.

There will be a rebuilding process as all three of last season's double-figure scorers -- Davante Gardner, Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson -- are gone. Role players like Deonte Burton, Juan Anderson, Derrick Wilson, JaJuan Johnson and Steve Taylor, Jr. are expected to compete for playing time.

Matt Carlino, a transfer from BYU, will be immediately eligible and his impact will be felt. Carlino averaged 13.7 PPG for the Cougars last season, including a 30-point performance against Portland. Indiana transfer Luke Fischer, a big man, will be eligible in December.

The fans in Milwaukee will love Wojciechowski as Marquette's head coach. He brings a passion that is special. His personality will be contagious. He was a fierce competitor on the court, and his tenacity will rub off on his players.