College of Charleston men’s basketball coach Doug Wojcik spoke enthusiastically about his new team’s potential.
His goal, he said, is to have the Cougars recognized in the same breath with VCU, Gonzaga, Creighton and Butler, mid-major schools that have made a national splash in recent years.
Wojcik, 47, was introduced Wednesday as the school’s new head coach, replacing Bobby Cremins, who officially announced his retirement on March 19 after taking a medical leave of absence for exhaustion on Jan. 27.
Wojcik met with the returning players Tuesday night, then watched them work out Wednesday prior to his news conference at TD Arena.
“Andrew (Lawrence) is a very good player. Adjehi (Baru) is a very good player. Trent (Wiedeman) is in a cast right now. I think Anthony (Stitt) has a chance to be a very special player. We have some things to build around,” Wojcik said.
Wojcik comes to Charleston after a seven-year stint at Tulsa, where he led the Golden Hurricane to a 140-92 record but was fired in March following a 17-14 season. The Tulsa athletic director said it was time for a change, citing declining season-ticket sales and revenues.
Charleston athletics director Joe Hull said that was a red flag, but glowing recommendations from a bevy of Hall of Fame coaches, and Wojcik’s record for not only wins and losses but also for graduation, negated that question. The school’s search committee consisted of Hull, school president Dr. George Benson, former Cougars coach John Kresse and Dan Shoemaker, vice president for collegiate development for ESPN Regional Television and the father of two College of Charleston students.
“Of course we looked at that and tried to understand what they were thinking,” said Hull, who also discussed Wojcik with former Tulsa AD Bubba Cunningham, who was hired by North Carolina last October.
Hull said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, where Wojcik was an assistant before going to Tulsa, offered his recommendation along with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Kentucky’s John Calipari and Florida’s Billy Donovan.
Wojcik said he has not decided on a coaching staff, but added that interim coach Mark Byington has a spot if he wants it. Wojcik’s top assistant at Tulsa, Jeremy Ballard, took a job at VCU.
Byington, who along with Cremins and other members of the current coaching staff were in attendance, said he has some other opportunities.
“Being here for coach Wojcik, I know, would help my career. It’s a tough process right now and I have to figure it out,” Byington said. “I have to make a decision pretty quick and do what’s best for me and my family.”
The returning players said they still were getting to know Wojcik.
“He seems like a really good guy,” said Lawrence, who will be a senior next season. “He has a beautiful family and I welcome him to Charleston. He touched on some points we really need to work on. I hope to be part of a championship-winning team next year.”
Baru, a 6-9 rising sophomore, said he liked what he heard from the new coach. Stitt, also a rising sophomore, agreed.
“He seems pretty straightforward,” Stitt said. “Everybody seemed to get a good vibe from him when we met in the locker room (Tuesday) night.”
Asked if he was concerned about any players transferring, Wojcik said he expected most of the players to return.
“The quality of life here is really, really good. They have a lot of fun and are comfortable in their surroundings. You have a big-time schedule so you get the exposure you need,” Wojcik said.
Hull said the school has an agreement in principle with Wojcik, but there are still contract details, including total compensation, to work out.