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Wojo Is Home Again

Steve Wojciechowski returns to the familiar
confines that made him famous.

 

By: David L. Wright

 

A Wojo link from The Baltimore Sun

At twenty-three years old, most people are settling into
their first of what will be several jobs, not sure if it is where they want to
be. Steve Wojciechowski has never been like most people. When the new college
basketball season begins, he will be doing something he has always wanted to do
for a living: coach basketball.

Less than five months ago, Wojciechowski was the radio color
commentator for Duke games, watching them lose the NCAA title to Connecticut.
When Quin Snyder left to become the head coach at Missouri several weeks later,
Mike Krzyzewski wasted not time in naming his new assistant coach.

“I always knew that I wanted to coach. I’ve been
fortunate to have some great coaches, from youth leagues through high school and
here at Duke,” he said. “Did I think that this opportunity would come? Yes,
but I certainly didn’t think that it would happen so fast. Everything just
seemed to fall into place.”

As a kid growing up in Severna Park, Maryland, Wojciechowski’s
first love was soccer. He didn’t begin to seriously play basketball until the
age of nine. “I remember trying out for a local team of eight to ten year
olds. It was amazing. I went home and told my mom that this was what I wanted to
play.”

A high-school all-American in basketball, Wojciechowski was
ridiculed when he chose to play at Duke. “All my life people told me that I
wasn’t good enough to play basketball competitively. After I chose Duke,
everyone was saying that I was too small, too slow, or too weak to compete in
the ACC. I just worked as hard as I could at getting better,” Wojciechowski
said.

His first two years at Duke were disrupted by Krzyzewski’s
back surgery and questions regarding his conditioning. “It was a very
difficult first year at Duke. My high-school coach, Ray Mullis, passed away and
Coach K was out indefinitely with his back injury. I had a hard time adjusting
to everything,” Wojciechowski remembered.

But Wojciechowski rebounded and became an excellent point
guard, earning National Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior, and was
team captain as a senior. His Duke career culminated with a regional final loss
to Kentucky, ending an improbable season in which Duke went 32-4, winning its
second straight regular-season ACC title.

Wojciechowski’s stint as a professional player was brief,
but memorable. “It was great to experience a totally different culture and
interact with the people. But the basketball was too different. The passion and
intensity for the game that I was accustomed to seeing wasn’t there. The
players didn’t seem to think it was as important,” he remembers.

Following his brief pro career, Wojciechowski too a job as
color commentator for the radio broadcasts of Duke Basketball. Then, with Snyder’s
departure for Missouri, Wojciechowski stepped in as the youngest Division One
assistant coach in the nation.

When asked what the first couple of months on the job have
been like, Wojciechowski replied, “It’s actually been both hectic and great
at the same time. This is a real transitory period for myself and the Duke
program.” A four-year player himself, the recent departure of underclassmen
Elton Brand, William Avery, and Corey Maggette haven’t caused him to lose
perspective. “I really have mixed feelings about it. I played with Elton
(Brand) and Will (Avery), so I wish them the best with their pro careers. They
are both great guys. As for Duke, we have to keep going and focus on next year,
not worrying about who has left the team.”

So as a new school year approaches, the men’s basketball
program at Duke finds itself adjusting to a myriad of changes. Underclassmen
departing for the NBA, a transfer, hip surgery, and the hiring of a rookie
assistant coach have all happened in the space of a few months. But don’t
think that the team is in trouble.

Duke will bring in a freshman class that includes four
All-Americans, and five respective Gatorade State Players of the Year. Coach K’s
rehabilitation is well ahead of schedule and in Wojciechowski, Duke will get one
of the brightest and most energetic young coaches in the country.

“It’s a new experience for everyone,” Wojciechowski
says. “We’re happy for the guys that moved on, but we are focused on what
lies ahead. Everybody is really excited about next year.”

 

---David L. Wright, 22, is a graduate of Mount St. Mary’s
College, and resides in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Wright worked for Jim Phelan
and Mt. St. Mary’s Basketball for four years. For the past two summers, Mr.
Wright has been a coach at the Mike Krzyzewski Basketball Camp, as well as camps
at other ACC, Atlantic 10, and Big Ten schools. In the fall, Mr. Wright will
begin his graduate education at the Temple University School of Communications,
where he will pursue a degree in Journalism. Following graduate school, Mr.
Wright hopes to work for a major daily newspaper or specialty magazine as a
sports journalist.