Duke's Wojciechowski new Marquette basketball coach

lkeeley@newsobserver.comApril 1, 2014 

After Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski was offered the head-coaching job at Marquette on Tuesday morning, he called his boss of 15 years, Mike Krzyzewski.

“My first question to him was if he had any interest in being my associate head coach and doing halftime interviews,” Wojciechowski said, drawing laughs at the news conference in Milwaukee introducing him as Marquette’s coach. “Surprisingly, he said no and that I couldn’t afford him.”

After the initial joke was out of the way, Krzyzewski gave his longtime protégée some real advice: Be yourself. With that, after a whirlwind 24 hours that included an interview, a job offer, feelings of excitement and anxiety and tears of sadness and joy, Wojciechowski, 37, signed on for his first head-coaching job. Details of the contract were not available.

Jon Scheyer is expected to take Wojciechowski’s position with the Blue Devils. Scheyer, 26, graduated from Duke in 2010 and joined the staff as a special assistant prior to this season. The Blue Devils are expected to take their time finding a replacement for Scheyer’s position.

Until this season, Wojciechowski worked primarily with Duke’s post players. That changed this season, as assistant coach Jeff Capel worked primarily with the post players (with assistant coach Nate James helping Marshall Plumlee in particular), and Wojciechowski worked mainly with the guards and perimeter players.

Wojciechowski, the associate head coach who graduated from Duke in 1998, is the second longtime assistant to leave for a head-coaching opportunity in as many years. Chris Collins, a 1996 Duke grad, left after 13 years to take over at Northwestern in 2013.

“Steve gave his heart and soul to me, our program, our community and Duke for 20 years,” Krzyzewski said in a statement released by Duke. “He was a vital part of the successes we have had. He made me better every day, and I know that he will make Marquette and the Milwaukee community better every day.”

Michael R. Lovell, Marquette’s president-elect, said Wojciechowski was the only finalist without head-coaching experience. Interim athletics director Bill Cords spoke highly of Wojciechowski’s experience as a Duke assistant, which included 2001 and 2010 national championships, and his work with USA Basketball in 2006-12. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo, along with Krzyzewski, provided Marquette a powerful endorsement of Wojciechowski, who called Tuesday “the proudest day of my basketball life.”

Marquette, which does not have a football team, spent $10.7 million on its men’s basketball program in 2012-13, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Education’s equity in athletics data. That’s more than most programs, including Indiana ($10.2 million) and North Carolina ($7.8 million). The Golden Eagles compete in the Big East Conference – a fact Wojciechowski cited as a plus.

“The fact that it’s a basketball conference, I love that,” he said. “And I don’t know how you couldn’t love that if you’re a basketball coach. A lot of times things are driven so much in today’s day and age by football. To come to a place where basketball is the thing, where there are so many storied traditions and great schools, is something that I’m incredibly excited about.”

Wojciechowski replaces Buzz Williams, who left after six seasons to become coach at Virginia Tech. The Golden Eagles had their streak of eight consecutive NCAA tournament appearances snapped this year.

“Duke has been great for me. It’s the place where I grew up, I have amazing relationships and it’s a place that made me better every day. So, I wasn’t going to leave for just any job,” Wojciechowski said. “I was only going to leave for what I thought was the perfect job for me. And I feel like Marquette is that place.”

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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