Under first-year men’s basketball coach Doug Wojcik, College of Charleston went 24-11 overall and 14-4 in the Southern Conference.
The Cougars advanced to the SoCon tournament finals against Davidson and were picked to play in the College Basketball Invitational tournament, losing to George Mason, 78-77, on a last-second tip-in last Tuesday night.
Charleston went 11-2 on the road and 13-3 in games played away from TD Arena. They also lost to Division II Anderson at home and were beaten by SoCon rival Davidson three times.
Wojcik sat down with Post and Courier beat writer Andrew Miller to discuss the Cougars’ season and the future of the program.
Q: What was your overall impressions of the season?
Wojcik: “Overall, really happy with 24-11 record and 14-4 record in the league. Not many teams around the country can say they won 24 games. Were there disappointments? Sure there were. I would have liked to have won more games at home and played better at home. I’m right there with the fans on that. There were ups and downs like in all seasons — the win at Baylor, the loss to Anderson — but overall, I think we improved and got better as the season went on. I’m proud of the guys and the way they competed all season and bought into what we were trying to do and build here.”
Q: Your philosophy and (former CofC coach) Bobby Cremins’ philosophy are a little different. How much pushback did you get from the players?
Wojcik: “Not as much as people might expect. I got some, no question, from some of the older guys, but overall the guys bought into what we’re trying to do. Contrary to what people might think, I’m not a ‘defensive guy’ or a ‘rebounding guy,’ but I think you win championships by playing good defense and rebounding. No question, we got better in those areas this season.”
Q: Was there one game or one area that stood out to you more than anything else this season?
Wojcik: “I think it was the Louisville game. I think that game really affected us throughout the year. I think that affected us with our students, and I’m not saying that’s wrong. Now, Louisville is a really good team, I mean I picked them in my bracket, but our fans are used to that one signature performance against a big program. We had that on the road against Baylor, but we didn’t have that at home. We just didn’t play well that night. I think that carried over for us. I wish I could have that game back.”
Q: What area are you most proud of, where you guys made the biggest improvement?
Wojcik: “I think with the defense across the board. Scoring defense. Rebounding. By the end of the season, we were very good in both areas. We went from being outrebounded as a team a year ago to being the best rebounding team in the conference and one of the best defensive teams in the league.”
Q: What surprised you about this team?
Wojcik: “I think the way we played on the road. We were 13-3 away from TD Arena. We had the second-most road wins of any team in the country. I think winning at Baylor and then at Elon early in the season and even against Charleston Southern gave us some confidence and momentum that we just rode the rest of the season.”
Q: How do you get better at home?
Wojcik: “You work at it. Trust me, we tried everything this season. We even put the guys in a hotel the night before the George Mason game. We’ll keep tweaking it. I’m not sure what that mojo is at home, but we need to get it. We’re going to keep working at it because our fans deserve it.”
Q: Is there any explanation for the loss to Anderson?
Wojcik: “You are always going to have letdowns. Every team has that one game. We were coming off of exams, but there’s no excuse. There are some games, some performances you just can’t explain, and that’s one of them.”
Q: Did this team meet your expectations?
Wojcik: “Yes and no. The 24 wins and the 13-3 mark away from TD Arena were great. I thought we’d be a pretty good team going into the season. There are a few games I’d like back. I’d like to have the Auburn game back with a healthy Andrew Lawrence. I’d like another shot at Louisville. Certainly Anderson. I’d like to have the Samford game at home back and the Georgia Southern game on the road. But again, overall I think we had a great season.”
Q: One of the biggest issues for you this season was having only two ballhandlers — Andrew Lawrence and Anthony Stitt. You played them a lot of minutes, did they get worn down?
Wojcik: “They did play a lot of minutes, but we had to have them out on the floor. A third ballhandler to relieve them would have been nice, and I think we might have won another game or two with a third ballhandler. It would have been nice to have Jordan Scott return. I never met the guy, so I never got the chance to talk him into staying.”
Q: What can you do for next season about getting more depth at the guard position?
Wojcik: “I think Canyon Barry will be a guy that can handle the ball, and (incoming freshman) Joe Chealey will play right away. I thought Anthony Thomas got better at handling the ball as the season went on. We need Theo Johnson to develop into an Anthony Thomas kind of player that can handle the ball on the perimeter.”
Q: With Trent Wiedeman transferring, that gives you an extra scholarship for next season. What kind of player are you looking to bring in?
Wojcik: “I’m not locked into one position. There are a lot of options out there. We’re going to get the best available player. I don’t know it that’s a high school kid or maybe, if the situation is right, get a transfer. It’s early, so we’ve got some time to bring the right guy in.”
Q: Is this the kind of season you can build a foundation on?
Wojcik: “Absolutely. We went from 10-8 in the conference to 14-4. We won 24 games. My two lions — Adjehi Baru and Anthony Stitt — roared against George Mason. Those are two guys I’m building this team around for the next two seasons. I think we’ve got an unbelievable foundation for the future.”