TULSA, Okla. -- Since Doug Wojcik left the Navy, he's tried
to stay on course toward the first major head coaching job of his
career. He arrived at his destination Monday, when he became the
new coach at Tulsa.
Wojcik, who's been an assistant on Tom Izzo's staff at Michigan
State the past two seasons, will take on the task of returning the
Golden Hurricane program to the national prominence it recently
enjoyed under departed coaches Tubby Smith and Bill Self.
It'll be the first head coaching job for Wojcik, who started his
career as an assistant at Navy, where he was the starting point
guard for three seasons on teams that combined to go 82-17 with
three NCAA tournament bids.
"Right now, if I had stayed in the Navy, I would be probably
the commanding officer of a ship," Wojcik said. "What I decided I
wanted to do was be the commanding officer of a Division I
Wojcik, 40, takes over a Tulsa team that is coming off
back-to-back 9-20 seasons after a decade of remarkable success
at the mid-major level.
The Golden Hurricane went to the NCAA tournament in six of eight
seasons before John Phillips replaced Buzz Peterson in April 2001.
He returned Tulsa to the NCAAs the next two seasons with a team
largely recruited by Peterson and Self, but the success soon faded.
Tulsa finished 9-20 last season and started this season 2-5
before Phillips resigned on Christmas night. Athletic director Judy
MacLeod announced that his top assistant, Alvin "Pooh"
Williamson, would take over on an interim basis and said she hoped
fans would rally around the team to again "put Tulsa basketball in
the national spotlight."
Instead, Tulsa went 7-15 the rest of the way and finished ninth
in the WAC -- nowhere near its level under the previous coaches.
Wojcik said he thought Tulsa had a young, but talented backcourt
and would need to address some needs at the post position, but was
confident he could turn the program back around.
"There's no reason we can't be successful right away," Wojcik
Wojcik said he would remain with Michigan State throughout the
rest of its season. The Spartans play Old Dominion in the first
round of the NCAA tournament Friday.
However, Wojcik said he'd still spend time working on Tulsa's
future. He said he hoped to assemble a staff within a week to 10
days, and wants to visit with the Golden Hurricane players when he
can. He said he hasn't met any of the players because they're away
on spring break.
Wojcik said he would give consideration to Williamson as he assembled his staff of assistants but had not yet talked to the former interim coach. Wojcik said he'd have to see how Williamson felt about returning.
Wojcik said he knew Williamson through a mutual friend.
"I'm going to try to do the right thing," Wojcik said. "As
long he feels good about things, I'd like to sit down and talk to
him. But if he doesn't, I understand that. If the Naval Academy had
not offered me the job when it was open, I'd be a little upset
Before becoming a coach, Williamson guided Tulsa to back-to-back
appearances in the NCAA tournament's round of 16 in 1994 and 1995
under coach Tubby Smith.
"It's his alma mater, it's not mine, and I'm very sensitive to
that," Wojcik said. "I have an alma mater, and you want to do the
right thing for him."
Wojcik's hiring returns Tulsa to its earlier trend of hiring
up-and-coming coaches like Smith, Self and Peterson that took the
Golden Hurricane to the NCAA tournament routinely.
MacLeod said the school wasn't specifically looking to follow
that mold, and considered other candidates, including head coaches
from other schools.
"We didn't say we're going after the top assistant in
America," MacLeod said. "I think it just worked out that this was
the fit that was right for the university."
Tulsa's problem with hiring assistants has been their tendency
to use the job as a steppingstone and leave after only a few
Smith led the Golden Hurricane to back-to-back appearances in
the NCAA tournament round of 16 before leaving in 1995, Steve
Robinson followed with a pair of bids to the NCAAs in his two
years. Self made it to the NCAAs in two of his three seasons, and
Peterson's Golden Hurricane team won the NIT in his only season in
Wojcik, who spent a year at Notre Dame then three at North
Carolina before joining the Spartans, said he's not looking for a
"This is our fourth move in six years," Wojcik said. "I
promise you this: Getting the right opportunity was the most
important thing to me professionally, but my family by far is more
important to me.
"The balance between the two is critial. I feel we do have
balance, and moving around does not create balance."
Wojcik and his wife, Lael, have a 4-year-old son, Paxson, and a
2-year-old son, Denham.