Rick Barnes, the first Clemson head basketball coach to take the Tigers to the NCAA tournament three times in a row, realized in Chicago it was time to make a move.

Clemson was upset by Western Michigan at the United Center in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament and Barnes knew the Tigers were about to regress. So he bolted, gleefully and fortunately and brilliantly, for Texas.

Oliver Purnell cashed in ahead of the posse with a Chicago twist, too. The second Clemson head coach to notch three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances grabbed a DePaul offer, no doubt with similar sentiment.

On paper, the Tigers without Trevor Booker don't look as good next season as Purnell's three teams that lost first-round NCAA tournament games.

Which is why this next hire by athletic director Terry Don Phillips is typically critical.

Assuming Butler head coach Brad Stevens is not eagerly eyeing Lake Hartwell boat slips, timing is everything.

Quick. Get a reliable cell number for Duke associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski and beat the crowd.

Fast. Interview Duke's other associate head coach, Chris Collins, before he takes his basketball bloodline elsewhere.

Wojo and Dabo

There are much bigger names out there. But this approach makes good professional and financial sense.

If you can't beat a pair of former Duke guards, hire one. Or the other.

Wojciechowski has a more impressive resume than Dabo Swinney did upon his rise to the top of the Clemson football program; "Wojo" is part of a national championship coaching staff.

The Dabo and Wojo Show will play well on the booster club circuit.

Strictly from a basketball perspective, Wojciechowski and Collins have lots of the right stuff.

Two months ago, when the ACC was under fire for an uncharacteristic lack of Top 25 representation, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked about his assistants and bragged on "the best coaching staff in the country."

Well, obviously.

Wojciechowski, with his signature floor-slapping enthusiasm on defense, consistently brought energy as a player. Clemson fans would love a similar approach to coaching and recruiting.

Collins comes from hoops royalty. His father Doug was a college sharpshooter who played and coached in the NBA. He is one of the best TV analysts around.

Chapel Hill factor

Too Dookie for Clemson?

For some, maybe.

But it cannot hurt that Wojciechowski and Collins (not necessarily in that order) know how to win in Chapel Hill, where every single head coach in the history of Clemson basketball has combined to go winless.

By the way …

Thanks, Oliver.

It is not as if we hardly knew ye.

We got to know ye well.

Oliver and Vicky Purnell are a classy couple who worked overtime to build the Clemson brand on and off the court.

Of course, DePaul is not Texas. For Purnell, that's OK. Maybe Clint Eastwood, another advocate of the press defense, said it best: "A man's got to know his limitations."

Now it's a new basketball day at Clemson. It ought to start with Collins and/or Wojciechowski at least getting a long look that might pay off in a longer run in some NCAA tournament soon.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.