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Season preview: CHD interviews Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski

To prepare for the tip-off of another great year of college basketball, CHD is reaching out to coaches and players around the country to get the inside scoop on what we can expect this time around. Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with new Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski about playing/working for Coach K.

wojo

In 1994 you were named a McDonald’s All-American: which of your fellow honorees impressed you the most (Raef LaFrentz/Trajan Langdon/Antoine Walker/other)? The guys I paid the most attention to were my future Duke teammates, and it was my first time to watch Trajan play extensively in person.

As a freshman in February 1995, Jeff Capel made his legendary 37-foot runner at the end of the first OT in what remains the highest scoring game in the history of the Duke-UNC rivalry (102-100): where does that rank among the most amazing shots you have ever seen, and how do you explain the rivalry to people who have never experienced it firsthand? That shot goes down in history: you can be sure it is in the highlight package leading up to every UNC-Duke game. It is as good a rivalry as there is in sports. It is unique because the schools are only eight miles apart: you are competing and living in the same area and both schools have had amazing coaches and long-time traditions.

In 1998 you were named NABC DPOY: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor, and what is the secret to playing great defense? It was a great honor, but certainly the result of having great team defense with teammates like Shane Battier and Elton Brand behind me. Great defense takes a lot of heart and the will to stop someone, and you have to coordinate five guys to play as one.

You remain in the all-time top-10 at Duke in both career assists and steals: how did you balance your offense with your defense? The way I got onto the court was playing defense, so that was essential. The second thing I had to do was get the right people the ball in the right situations. Those were my two main roles as a player, so it was just a function of me performing my roles to the best of my ability.

You won the 2001 NCAA title as an assistant to Coach K at Duke: how on earth were you able to overcome a 22-point deficit to Maryland in the Final 4, and what did it mean to you to win a title? Since I did not win one as a player, winning that first one as an assistant so early in my coaching career meant a lot to me. We had an amazing team with some incredible leaders in Battier and Nate James. I was almost too young to appreciate how hard it is to win a title. Maryland had a great team and we had amazing battles with them all year long. They jumped on us in the first half and Coach K called a timeout and said, “Stop thinking and just play,” and from that point on we just began to come all the way back.

In 2010 you won a 2nd NCAA title over Butler when Gordon Hayward’s half-court heave at the buzzer rimmed out: what was it like to play for Coach K, and what was it like to work for him? It was amazing on both fronts. He will go down as probably the best college coach of all time so to learn from him and compete for him was an honor. To develop a new relationship with him as a coach was terrific: I learned so much as a player but even more as a coach as I got to see what went on behind the scenes.

On April one you were hired as head coach at Marquette: why did you take the job, and what has been the biggest adjustment from assistant coach to head coach? Marquette is a great program with a lot of pride and tradition and history. The school provides us the resources to be really good and we have an amazingly supportive community. I thought it had the best of everything and was a place where I could win at a high level. Milwaukee is a really good place to live with a great family atmosphere. There are a lot of adjustments in terms of time management and different responsibilities, but I just try to do my best every day.

Your non-conference schedule includes games against Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, and Arizona State: which of these games do you feel will present your biggest test? Every game we play is going to be a huge test so we need to prepare to compete at the highest level. We lost over 70% of our scoring and over 60% of our rebounding, so we will approach every game as a big game.

Five of the top-6 scorers from last year are no longer on the roster (Jamal Wilson/Davante Gardner/Chris Otule/Jake Thomas/Todd Mayo): how much pressure is there on Deonte Burton to be a leader this year? There is some pressure on him but there is also pressure on everyone else. Deonte can score and he showed that in bits and pieces last year, but our entire team needs to be able to step up and contribute.

What are your goals for the upcoming season, and what are your expectations for the upcoming season? My expectation is that we get better every day by giving our best effort, and I think the by-product of that will be wins. We just need to focus on what we can control.

JonTeitel