Steve Wojciechowski prepares for NCAA coaching debut, potential matchup with Duke

Former Blue Devil player and assistant could meet Coach K in round two

Bob Donnan—X02835
Mar 16

On Friday, no one will be rooting harder for Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski to win his first NCAA Tournament game as a head coach than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. And no one will be rooting harder for Coach K to win his NCAA record 91st tournament game than Wojo.After that, both men will worry about what comes next.Duke and Marquette were placed in the same region, in one of those quirky twists that the NCAA Selection Committee swears are random. They’re on a collision course to meet on Sunday in the Round of 32. That put Krzyzewski in the unenviable position of having to coach against his former point guard and 14-year assistant.Obviously, neither coach wanted to discuss the possibility on Thursday. In addition to the emotional turmoil the game will stir up, to discuss the possibility would violate tournament etiquette. Both coaches swore they were focused on their opening round opponents, Troy and South Carolina, respectively.”We’re all focused on South Carolina,” said Marquette freshman Markus Howard. “That’s our first and foremost, number-one concern. We’re just going to take it one game at a time and just focus on that at the moment right now.”Wojchiechowski was lured out of the self-imposed silence when a reporter referred to Krzyzewski as “Mike.””I assume by Mike, you meant Coach,” Wojciechowski said. “I’m not used to referring to him like that.”Confident that his mentor would be referred to respectfully, Wojciechowski discussed his relationship with Krzyzewski.”He’s one of the people I’m closest to in my life,” he said. “So that’s the type of relationship we have. I appreciate everything that he’s done for me as a player, as an assistant coach, and now being somebody I can lean on as a head coach.””We have a family,” Krzyzewski said of Wojo. “Steve and I are family. We spent — heck, it’s probably 19, 20 years. Are you kidding me?”Coach K spoke like a proud father about Wojciechowski’s success at Marquette. Since taking over for Buzz Williams three years ago, Wojo has produced a 20-win season (with a second just one win away), and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.”They share the ball so well,” Krzyzewski said of the Golden Eagles. “And I think what Steve has done is he’s taken the talent that he has and meshed it into a style that can beat you, instead of trying to fit guys into another style that wouldn’t be as successful.”There’s no question where Wojciechowski learned that method of building a team.”I think one of the things Coach has always talked about to all of his — the guys who have worked for him, is figuring out how to put your team in the best position to win. And with the way we’ve played this year, I think it gives our team the best opportunity to win. I think, obviously, I learned a lot from Coach in my time at Duke, but I think everybody’s got to be their own person and make their own decision. So hopefully decisions that my staff and I have made for this team have been good ones.”Wojciechowski isn’t the only Duke alum who faces a potential showdown with their former coach. Chris Carrawell, who won ACC Player of the Year for Krzyzewski in 2000, is one of the assistants on Wojo’s staff, and former Duke point guard Tyler Thornton is a graduate manager.Despite the connections to a potential opponent, there’s no question about Wojo’s dedication to the Golden Eagles. When asked about all the NCAA Tournaments he’s been in as a player, assistant and now head coach, he responded, “Well, they’re all special, but I don’t think any of them are more special than this. The thing I’m most excited about is that our players get to experience this. We have a number of guys on our roster, all but one, who have never been part of the NCAA Tournament. And I think the NCAA Tournament’s the greatest sporting event there is. And so for our guys to experience this and for me to get to go along on that ride with them, it’s something that I’ll always cherish.”Just don’t call his former coach, “Mike.”