Steve Wojciechowski Quietly Rebuilding Marquette With Young Talent

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 7th, 2015

The path to a head coaching position at a high major university is not a beaten one; many of today’s coaches ascended different ladders to get to their current positions. Some coaches got there by taking little-known schools to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament; others took an open position at the same school when their boss moved on; while still others first served as high-profile assistants to established coaches in more prestigious programs. Marquette’s first-year head coach, Steve Wojciechowski, falls into the latter category with a pedigree few others can boast. After a successful four-year playing career at Duke, he spent 15 years apprenticing for one of the best to ever coach the sport, Mike Krzyzewski. But despite the unimpeachable regard everyone holds for his former coach and mentor, success at the highest levels has not been guaranteed for Krzyzewski’s acolytes. Now that Wojciechowski is the leader of one of the most tradition-rich programs in the country, he’s hoping to start a tradition of his own in Milwaukee. On Tuesday night in Washington, DC, he came very close to getting the first truly big win of his young career when Marquette battled the Hoyas to a tight six-point loss.

Steve Wojciechowski's first job as a head coach is to rebuild a proud Marquette program.

Steve Wojciechowski’s first job as a head coach is to rebuild a proud Marquette program (Gary Porter).

When the 38-year old accepted the Marquette job last spring, the program was not in the same shape as it had been when it made eight straight NCAA Tournaments from 2006-13. After a disappointing 17-15 season, former head coach Buzz Williams downgraded to Virginia Tech because of the uncertainty of the athletic director’s position (currently being filled by interim AD, Bill Cords), and a general concern about the new Big East’s visibility in moving from ESPN to Fox Sports 1 as its primary television carrier. Another factor in his departure may have been the stark realization that his current roster simply was not all that competitive. After Shaka Smart and Cuonzo Martin passed on the Marquette job, this opened the door for Wojciechowski to become a first-time head coach at a respected basketball program with an opportunity to rebuild it in his own image.

Immediate challenges awaited Wojciechowski upon his arrival. He was handed a roster of only 10 players, with Indiana transfer Luke Fischer, perhaps the most talented of the group, forced to miss the first eight games due to transfer rules. Fischer and freshman Duane Wilson, along with seniors Juan Anderson, Matt Carlino, and Derrick Wilson make up a reasonably talented starting five, but the team’s overall lack of depth makes it impossible to hide their off nights and mistakes. In Tuesday night’s game against Georgetown, the Golden Eagles held the Hoyas to only 19 made field goals but 15 turnovers led to 19 of the Hoyas’ 65 points. They also sent Georgetown to the line 24 times in the second half, accounting for 21 of its 32 second half points, eventually costing Marquette a signature road win. While this likely isn’t the year for the program to return to the national conversation, Wojciechowski has a nice inside/outside foundation in Fisher and Duane Wilson to build with as he simultaneously develops as a head coach. His success, however, will ultimately be determined by the talent he is able to recruit to Milwaukee, and on this front the future looks especially bright. He has already signed four top-100 recruits in the Class of 2015, including a top-10 prospect in Henry Ellenson, and that recipe gives Wojciechowski the best chance of mirroring the success he enjoyed over the last two decades in Durham.

Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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