The way Citadel coach Chuck Driesell tells it, things did not end well the last time he and College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik met on the basketball court.
TODAY’S GAME Who: College of Charleston at The CitadelWhen: 7:30 p.m. Where: McAlister Field HouseRadio: 910-AM, 1450-AM. TV: MY TV/ESPN3.com
Back in the summer of 1986, a two-on-two game at the beach house of Chuck’s dad, famed coach Lefty Driesell, got a little out of hand.
“The game never got finished because it got so heated,” the Bulldogs’ coach recalled with a grin. “I’m not sure who won that game. I think we were ahead, but it was pretty competitive … It got ugly.”
Twenty-six years later, the coaches remain fast friends, confidants in a competitive business that can wreck or at least strain previously solid relationships (see: Bobby Knight and Mike Krzyzewski).
Driesell and Wojcik will meet as rival coaches for the first time tonight when The Citadel hosts College of Charleston at McAlister Field House, a meeting the pair have awaited with mixed feelings since Wojcik was hired by the Cougars in April 2012.
“He hates it,” Driesell said of Wojcik’s feelings about the game. “But I tell him, it’s going to be fun. Let’s get after it and see what happens. I told him, at least we’ll finish the game this time, and we’ll know who wins and loses.”
The outcome of this game — the Cougars (11-5) are heavy favorites over the Bulldogs (3-11), who have lost 10 straight — or any future meetings seem unlikely to impact the friendship between these two coaches, which dates back to Wojcik’s senior year at the Naval Academy in 1986.
“This isn’t about me against Chuck or anything like that,” Wojcik said. “This is about each of just trying to win the next game and move on. Just like any relationship I have with people that are close to me, I know I’ve got his back and I know he has my back. I’m in his foxhole if he ever needs me, and I know he’s in mine if I ever need him.”
Wojcik was the point guard on Hall of Famer David Robinson’s famed Navy teams, while Driesell was playing at Maryland and then coaching at the Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I. The pair roomed together when Wojcik was stationed in Newport for training.
Later, Lefty Driesell hired Doug’s brother, Dave, as an assistant coach alongside Chuck at James Madison, and the families have stayed close over the years. Doug sent his sons to Chuck’s basketball camp last summer. The coaches went out for a burger last week.
“It’s nice to have one of your best friends over a 30-year period doing the same thing you’re doing,” Wojcik said.
“We’ve got the same hardships, the same emotions, the same issues and we’re the same town now, which makes it nice to able to reach out to him and get together.”
Wojcik can tell his friend about the up-and-down nature of the Cougars, who won at nationally ranked Baylor and lost at home to Division II Anderson and Southern Conference foe Samford, and nearly lost to Furman. Charleston righted itself with an 86-59 blowout of Chattanooga on Saturday, improving to 3-1 in the SoCon with six wins in its last seven games.
The Cougars put five players in double figures against the Mocs, led by 20 from guard Anthony Stitt. Center Adjehi Baru had 13 points, 10 rebounds and a highlight-reel dunk, and guard Andrew Lawrence dished 10 assists.
And Driesell could use a sympathetic ear with regard to his Bulldogs, who have not been able to pull out close games against Chattanooga and Samford to snap their 10-game skid, falling to 0-4 in the league.
Freshman Matt Van Scyoc has scored 39 points in The Citadel’s last two games, and guard Marshall Harris had 12 points and seven assists against Samford. But the Bulldogs have to find a way to get their outside game and senior center Mike Groselle going at the same time; cutting down on their 16.8 turnovers per game would help.
The teams meet again on Jan. 24 with the future of the 111-year-old rivalry up in the air after that due to College of Charleston’s move to the Colonial Athletic Association. Both coaches say they want to continue the rivalry.
In the meantime, there’s tonight.
“It’s going to be really awkward,” Driesell said. “But we’re both winners, we’ll both compete like crazy to win. And at the end of the day, we’ll be close friends like we’ve always been.”
Andrew Miller contributed to this article.