NEW YORK – The first time Marquette guard Matt Carlino saw Steve Wojciechowski was on television – not playing, but conducting a halftime interview as a coach.
“I was a little young to see him play, but he always did the halftime interview for Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) at Duke,” said Carlino at BIG EAST Media Day at Madison Square Garden.
Wojciechowski, who starred in the backcourt at Duke before serving 15 years as an assistant to Krzyzewski, was named Marquette’s head coach in April, replacing Buzz Williams, who moved to Virginia Tech.
“The transition is going well,” admitted Wojciechowski. “Being around Coach K taught me the importance of relationships with your players and people around the program, the value of preparation for your team and to do everything with a passion.
“Those are the three things I think about every day.”
The 38-year-old Wojciechowski inherits a program that missed the post-season in 2013-14 for the first time in 13 seasons. The Golden Eagles start the season without a player over 6-6, as they await 6-11 Luke Fischer, a transfer from Indiana, to become eligible.
“We don’t have great size, so we’re going to try to do some things defensively to use that to our advantage,” said Wojciechowski. “I think our guys are competitors. They’re used to working. I think we’ll be good defensively, and then will figure out what the best kind of offense to play is.”
Marquette, picked to finish eighth in the conference by the head coaches, will benefit from Carlino, a transfer from BYU who is eligible immediately. He should provide a boost to a perimeter offense that was lacking last season.
“It’s been great learning from him,” Carlino said of his new coach. “Communication has been the key and I’m learning the fundamentals of defense from him.”
The real change could begin next season. Wojciechowski’s initial recruiting class is rated by many as one of the five best in the nation.
DePaul looking to get back on track
Despite finishing last in the Big East every season since it joined in 2010-11 and getting picked last in the pre-season poll, DePaul coach Oliver Purnell remains optimistic about this seasons Blue Demons.
Sophomore guard Billy Garrett, Jr., the 2014 conference Rookie of the Year, headlines a cast that returns nine players from a 12-21 squad that was plagued with off-court distraction. Purnell’s team lost a combined 33 points a game with the departures of Cleveland Melvin (left school in February) and Brandon Young (graduation).
Purnell recruited three juco transfers (guards Aaron Simpson and Derrick Wood and forward Rashaun Stimage) who he hopes will take some of the scoring burden from Garrett.
“I like this group,” said Purnell. “I think if we continue to grow and work hard we have a chance to compete very well in the Big East. “Any time you don’t have things you can count on is hard. Now we can grow.
“A big thing for us this year is to believe and trust each other. I commend a lot of these guys who hung in there last year and played some really good basketball at the end of the season.”
A Bluejay flies away
Creighton coach Greg McDermott starts the rebuilding process after his son Doug, the National Player of the Year, was drafted by the Chicago Bulls this summer. The younger McDermott and three other starters are gone from the conferences second place team.
But Greg McDermott is prepared to move on with guard Austin Chatman, the sole returning starter, and the best fan base in the conference. In June, Creighton opened its Championship Center, a $13 million practice facility with a weight room, offices and training facility.
“I coached 20 years before I coached Doug,” said his dad, “and I plan to coach a long time after. Obviously it was a blessing to coach your son for four years, especially as we transitioned to the Big East.
“To watch his (Doug’s) experiences and the team’s experiences was unbelievable as a father. But this group has worked extremely hard. They knew their time was coming. They are going to have to blaze their own trail.”
Greg McDermott believes the expectations are high, at least internally. The Bluejays were picked ninth in the pre-season poll.
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