Charleston ClassicWhen: Thursday, Friday, SundayWhere: TD ArenaFirst round: Thursday – Dayton vs. Colorado, 12:30 p.m.; Baylor vs. Boston College, 3 p.m.; St. John's vs. College of Charleston, 5 p.m.; Auburn vs. Murray State, 8 p.m.Tickets: Range from $20 single session (two games) to $90 (all tournament pass); (843) 953-2632 or www.charlestonclassic.com
Doug Wojcik interrupted his late lunch of sushi fresh from Caviar and Bananas to chew on a comparison.
Asked if has phoned the former College of Charleston basketball coach since moving to the Lowcountry, the current coach was quick to reply.
“No,” Wojcik said Tuesday in his office overlooking Meeting Street.
Wojcik in his new gig isn't following Herrion, dismissed with an 80-37 record after the 2006 season. Wojcik, a 47-year-old U.S. Naval Academy graduate, replaces famously gregarious Bobby Cremins.
But the Wojcik launch pad seems strikingly similar to Herrion's honeymoon with Cougars fans. That might turn out great this season for the Cougars, starting Thursday night with a Charleston Classic game against St. John's.
Follow the bouncing ball:
Herrion going into the 2002-2003 season inherited a talented group from the legendary John Kresse.
But they played differently, steering away from Kresse's more methodical approach and adopting Herrion's free-wheeling style.
Hard to scout, those Cougars started 2-0 and then defeated Wyoming, Oklahoma State and Villanova to win the Great Alaska Shootout.
“And that was when winning the Great Alaska Shootout meant something,” Wojcik said.
That 2003 team led by Troy Wheless, Thomas Mobley,
A.J. Harris and Mike Benton, finished 25-8 including an NIT victory over Kent State and future San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates.
Later, Herrion's program regressed just as he wasn't getting along with enough people.
But here is Wojcik and a more conventional strategic approach than a wide-open system Cremins dusted off from his days at Georgia Tech.
This is a very good College of Charleston team, 1-0 going into a nicely arranged tournament. The Cougars are difficult to prepare for until opposing coaches collect more video.
Closer than Alaska
This time, the head coach doesn't have to fly 4,004 air miles to Anchorage. Wojcik simply will ride an elevator down to floor level at TD Arena for a quality early season basketball tournament.
“Things are a lot different,” Wojcik said. “You didn't have a (new) building. You didn't have an ESPN tournament. You didn't have teams like St. John's and Baylor and Colorado coming in here. The whole scenario has changed, but this is a great opportunity for us.”
Wojcik said the Charleston team he took over is better than the one he inherited at Tulsa seven seasons ago. Yes, the difference between replacing someone fired (John Phillips) and someone who retired (Cremins).
Davidson is a formidable top 25 contender and College of Charleston's potential isn't way behind. Wouldn't it be funny if the Southern Conference, for the first time, places two teams in the NCAA tournament just as the College of Charleston is bolting for the Colonial Athletic Association for, among other reasons, a better chance at gaining an NCAA at-large bid?
There was a lot to like as the Cougars clobbered Towson, 75-58, in the season opener Friday night. They led 40-14 at halftime and coasted.
Bursting with balance, starters Adjehi Baru, Trent Wiedeman, Andrew Lawrence, Anthony Stitt and newcomer Anthony Thomas scored between 9 and 17 points apiece.
“I can't say enough about these players,” Wojcik said. “Their effort to try and please has been phenomenal.”
After St. John's, the Cougars' Charleston Classic path includes Auburn or Murray State on Friday night.
Maybe No. 16 Baylor in the championship game on Sunday (College of Charleston also will play the Bears in Waco on Nov. 24).
“I'm just glad I don't have to travel to Alaska,” Wojcik said.
A lot of Cougars fans will be glad if Wojcik matches Herrion's first-year record of 25 wins.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff
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