clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

That’s What They Said: It’s Wojo Rehab Season!

Noted Duke grad Seth Davis from The Athletic is first in line to try to rehab the former Marquette head coach’s image.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

North Carolina v Duke
Here’s Steve Wojciechowski taking in Duke’s 94-81 loss to North Carolina in Coach K’s final home game.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

It was only a matter of time before it happened.

On Tuesday, Seth Davis and The Athletic published what will probably end up as the first step of the rehabilitation process of former Marquette men’s basketball head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s coaching career. There is no other way to read Davis 3,000+ word profile of the former Duke assistant without saying “ah, yes, this is designed to make Wojciechowski appeal as a hire to other athletic directors to get him a new job in coaching.”

If you have a subscription to The Athletic, then you’ve probably already seen the article. If you don’t, then please do not go out of your way to read it. I already read it. It has…. some problems. The “oh, look at Wojo, looking out over the mountains in Utah, he is changing his worldview” stuff in it is fine…. If it was an article designed to tell you all about how he is moving past the world of collegiate coaching.

But the rest of it….. well, that’s where the problems come in, and to put it quite plainly, Davis and The Athletic decided to varnish over some facts on their way towards making Wojciechowski a palatable hire down the road.

So, we’re going to go through the dang thing, because I’ve got Things To Say about it, or at the very least jokes to get off my chest. We’ll do it in the style of Fire Joe Morgan, just less artfully because I’m not Michael Schur.

As a primer/refresher, I highly recommend you flip back into the AE archives and re-read our request that Wojciechowski no longer be allowed to coach at Marquette. Feels relevant right now.

Here we go, skipping ahead to the interesting parts.

He’s also not coaching, which means he’s not worried about catching a flight to a high school tournament, or breaking down video in the wee hours of the morning, or trying to convince a player not to transfer,

Or being “very, very surprised” that his players were transferring.

or figuring out a way to win on the road at Villanova,

Something he never did and only three coaches in MU history have ever done.

Tom Crean: 1-1 all time at Villanova
Buzz Williams: 1-5 all time at Villanova
Shaka Smart: 1-0 all time at Villanova

Steve Wojciechowski? 0-7. Crean won on try #2, Williams on try #4, Smart on try #1 AND he’s the only one of the three to ever win at The Pavilion.

FUN FACT: Al McGuire is 0-1 on the road against Villanova, and MU didn’t play the Wildcats in their building again until it was a requirement of the Big East.

or wooing a five-star recruit,

Something he only ever succeeded at once.

or wondering what’s being said about him on Twitter,

Probably for the best since he started blocking Marquette fans who weren’t even tagging him halfway through his run in Milwaukee and then deleted the entire thing a year after that.

or fielding skeptical questions from the media.

I find it reprehensible that someone in the media is portraying “reporters asking questions of a college basketball coach” as something hard that they have to endure, much less subtly imply that it is an imposition upon the coach for said reporters to approach said coach with skepticism.

For Steve Wojciechowski, aka Wojo,

You can almost hear Davis say “and I call him that because we are friends!”

Wojciechowski first discovered hot yoga about 15 years ago while he was an assistant basketball coach at Duke, his alma mater. It was a welcome respite from the grind of the season and a much-needed lubricant for his aging joints. He continued the practice through his seven years as the head coach at Marquette.

This is literally the first time I am hearing about this. I am not surprised about this, because Steve Wojciechowski attempted to be The World’s Least Interesting Human Being while serving as Marquette’s head coach, and God forbid he ever share anything remotely interesting about himself at all ever.

After he was fired in March 2021, Wojciechowski moved his family to Park City – his wife, Lindsay, grew up in nearby Salt Lake City, and her parents still live in the area – and became a regular at PC Yoga Collective. He comes here so often that the manager asked if he would be interested in becoming a certified teacher. “I’ve thought about it,” he says. “I think it’d be great. It’s coaching. It’s guiding. The great thing about yoga is it’s judgment-free.”

You also can’t lose six of your last seven yoga sessions, so it seems like a pretty safe bet for him.

For most of his life, his identity was tethered to basketball. To lose that in humiliating fashion was hard to process. Yet, over time, Wojciechowski hasn’t just accepted his fate

Not sure he has based on some of the things you’re about to report here, Seth, but we’ll get to it.

That he has found serenity after enduring a coach’s ultimate nightmare is a plot twist that even those closest to him never saw coming. “I was waiting for the wheels to come off, and I’ve been very surprised they haven’t,” Lindsay says. “The daily habits and the consistency have been more surprising than anything. He has absolutely been where his feet are.”

Read it again and realize what’s being said. The man’s wife is shocked that he hasn’t completely lost his mind and she’s stunned that he’s acquired daily habits to bring stability to his life. I’m not sure this is exactly the kind of quote that you want to throw into a soft focus profile like this.

As Wojciechowski gazes at the rolling terrain framed beautifully by the Wasatch mountains, he hardly resembles the doughy, tightly wound figure last seen roaming the sidelines in Milwaukee.

I can’t believe Seth called him fat. I’ve said a lot of not kind things about Steve Wojciechowski on this website and on the Twitter machine, but I wouldn’t ever come anywhere close to thinking about assaulting his physical appearance.

His hair is longer, his waistline smaller, and a well-manicured, golden scruff decorates his face. Give him a cowboy hat, and he could be Robert Redford in a classic Western.

Did Seth take a picture of this? Sure did! Is it freely available on the internet for you to meme at your pleasure? Sure is!

One of the first things Wojciechowski needed to do after he moved to Utah was buy a car. He had never needed this particular life skill before, since his employers had always supplied him with a ride.

Is this a thing for high major assistants everywhere? Was it a regular thing to happen for a rookie assistant before the turn of the century? Was it a special thing for him in 1999 because he was WOJO AT DUKE and so some dealership was more than happy to hook him up with a vehicle? I’m legitimately asking.

[Lindsay Wojciechowski] certainly didn’t foresee [Wojciechowski buying a used Ford F-150] a few months before, when Marquette athletic director Bill Scholl called Wojciechowski to let him know that he was being fired. The news was hardly a shock, but it was jarring all the same.

There is something very funny about the idea that Bill Scholl picked up the phone and said, “Hey, Steve, just so you know, your work ID card has been turned off, let me know when you want to schedule a time to come clear out your office.” This wasn’t an in person meeting. It was a phone call. I have MANY questions about what exactly transpired here, but seeing as Seth Davis appears to have not done any background interviewing with anyone at Marquette for this article, much less anyone who doesn’t have a direct connection to Duke, I guess we’ll never know.

It was a painfully public takedown for a man who had long led a high-profile basketball life.

Oh boo hoo. If you don’t want to be publicly taken down, then don’t sign a multi-million dollar contract to do an incredibly high profile job.

“I don’t know if I was a cerebral player,” he says. “I knew what the guy I was supposed to listen to wanted, but the reason I got to where I did was my energy and my intensity.”

If only this lesson had been applied to literally any public appearance Marquette head coach. You know what’s a good way to head off students booing you? Not sounding like a robot that’s been taken hostage when shooting a video reminding everyone that you have a home game against Xavier on Thursday night.

After 10 months of playing professionally in Poland, Wojciechowski returned to Duke as an assistant, where he began his climb in the profession. “Most times, assistants are anonymous,” he says. “I never really experienced that.” After five seasons on the Duke bench, Wojciechowski left in the spring of 2014 to become the head coach at Marquette.

15. He was a Duke assistant from 1999 through 2014. 15 seasons. This is a simple copyediting error here, and a mistake that shouldn’t have even left Seth’s desk. Also, again, boo hoo, if you want to be an anonymous assistant, don’t go work for your own college head coach who was already an icon in the sport by the time you received a W-2.

His predecessor, Buzz Williams, who had taken the Golden Eagles to two Sweet 16s and an Elite Eight before leaving for Virginia Tech, proved to be a tough act to follow.

Marquette spent four weeks in the top 10 of the AP poll under Wojciechowski’s guidance and for one brief week, they were a preseason contender to win a national championship. Let’s not pretend that he didn’t figure it out for a hot second.

The program emptied out after Williams left, and Wojciechowski went 4-14 in the Big East in his first season. Things only got marginally better in the ensuing years as Wojciechowski took Marquette to the NCAA Tournament just twice, in 2017 and ’19. Both times, the Golden Eagles lost in the first round.

In hilariously awful fashion. You should say that part if you’re talking about how Buzz was a tough act to follow, you should say that Wojciechowski suffered two embarrassing losses in the NCAA tournament in his two appearances. Oh, right, but we’re rehabbing him and pointing out that Wojciechowski thought double teaming Ja Morant to leave one of his teammates open to hit shots over and over and over again was a good idea kind of ruins the plan. Carry on.

Beyond not having enough talent,

Hold the damn phone.

Where did this come from? Yes, the roster got a little sparse in the immediate wake of Williams’ departure. But Henry Ellenson, the aforementioned lone five-star prospect in Wojciechowski’s tenure, committed to the Golden Eagles before the very next season even started, and Ellenson was eventually joined in that recruiting class for Year Two by two four-star prospects according to 247 Sports. The Marquette box score for the NCAA tournament loss to South Carolina has five four-star prospects that were recruited to play at Marquette along with two four-star guys who transferred in. This doesn’t include the unheralded recruit who transferred in and then broke Dwyane Wade’s single season scoring record the season after that.

The team that lost to Murray State had four four-star prospects that Wojciechowski himself recruited to Marquette, two of which who were on the NCAA team two years earlier, and a fifth that transferred in during his tenure. One of those four-star prospects that was on both NCAA tournament teams would break MU’s career scoring record in the first game of the very next season.

What on God’s green earth do you mean that Wojciechowski did not have enough talent to succeed? Either Seth Davis just accepted something that Wojciechowski said to him and didn’t bother to double check it or even push back on during the interviewing process OR Seth Davis just didn’t bother to actually look at the rosters. Both things are complete and total failures.

Oh, and who was responsible for the talent acquisition? Oh, it was Wojciechowski? I see. Very interesting.


Beyond not having enough talent, Wojciechowski struggled with the challenge of getting his guys to play as hard as he did – all day, every day, including in every drill of every practice. “He was never OK with them not giving a 10 out of 10,” says Chris Carrawell, who spent four years as Wojciechowski’s assistant and is now an associate head coach at Duke. “These kids have changed, though.”

Seth Davis just let the associate head coach at one of the premiere programs in the entire country, one with a reputation for recruiting the very best high school prospects in the country, call high school and college players in the 21st century lazy compared to how they worked hard in his day. That’s insane.

It’s also insane that by way of Davis’ writing about what Wojciechowski was telling him, we can draw the conclusion that Wojciechowski griped during the interview about how his players never worked as hard as he wanted them to work. I dunno about anyone else, but to me, that is not exactly a ringing endorsement of your coaching style. It’s kind of your job to explain to the players why you need them to work extremely hard and then hold them accountable to that level.

If they’re not and you find that frustrating, that’s on you.

Continuing Carrawell’s quote.

At some point it can wear on them mentally. Sometimes I’d say to him, ‘These guys are tired, and we got a game tomorrow. Do you want to win the practice, or do you want to win the game?’”

In November 2015, during the very early part of Wojciechowski’s second season, Inside Marquette Basketball ran a feature about how technology has impacted MU’s training processes. This includes a look at the Catapult devices, which is effectively a GPS monitor that the players wear during practice and games to determine how much energy and effort each player expends while they have it on. One of three things is true: 1) Carrawell has forgotten this happened, 2) Carrawell wasn’t aware of what the Catapult data was telling the coaches and the training staff, or 3) Wojciechowski didn’t care about that information at all either on accident or on purpose. I desperately hope it was 1 or 2, because if it was 3 and Carrawell had to effectively beg his boss to leave some in the players’ tank repeatedly during his time in Milwaukee.... well, that’s a real argument in favor of firing the head coach, isn’t it?

Weird that Carrawell drifts back into the mental status for a second there after alluding to the players being lazy earlier, but oh well.

If there was a tipping point that led to Wojciechowski’s demise, it was the April 2019 decision by the Hauser brothers, Joey and Sam, to transfer, three days after the Golden Eagles’ high-scoring guard, Markus Howard, decided to forgo the NBA Draft and return for his senior season.

Again, Wojciechowski was “very, very surprised” that the Hausers transferred.

I would greatly disagree that this was a tipping point that led to his demise, at least not at the time. Remember, Marquette tore up his old contract and announced a brand new five year deal for Wojciechowski less than a month after the transfer announcement happened. All indications from the Al McGuire Center at that point were “this is our guy, he was completely not responsible for anything that happened with the Hausers, we’re moving onwards and upwards.” Hardly what you would call a tipping point at the time. In retrospect, maybe, sure, and I would personally have been fine if AD Bill Scholl had shown him the door in the immediate wake of saying he was very, very surprised that it happened. If anything, the contract after the transfers was the tipping point, not the transfers themselves.

As the losses continued to pile up, the fans and media turned on him.

I would love to see any example of “the media” turning on Steve Wojciechowski. I’m pretty sure I don’t remember an ongoing campaign from anyone in “the media” to point out all of his flaws on a regular basis, and I say this with the confidence of someone who runs a sports blog dedicated to keeping track of things people say about Marquette.

As for the fans turning on him, well, yeah. That’s what happens when you go from #10 in the country for four weeks to and a record of 23-4 to losing six of your final seven games and getting embarrassed in the NCAA tournament..... and then you follow that up with another six-of-seven losing stretch at the end of the next season after you got the team from unranked to start the year to #18 in the country. People tend to notice these things and lose their patience when you’re wasting the career of the most prolific scorer in program history and forcing them to say “yeah, but Markus Howard never won an NCAA tournament game” when talking about his career.

He tried to shield himself from the pummeling he was taking on social media,

As mentioned earlier, Wojciechowski deleted his Twitter in the wake of the Hausers transferring in 2019, allegedly because he was planning to do that after the season all along, which means he coached two full seasons without one. “Tried to” implies that he failed at this, which is pretty impressive since that would mean either 1) people were jumping into his Instagram comments or 2) he was actively searching it out after deleting his Twitter. I really hope it’s not the second one.

but he couldn’t protect his family from the “Fire Wojo” chants that came from the stands at home games down the stretch of the 2020-21 season. “It was shocking, honestly,” Lindsay says. “To see that level of negativity towards a guy who was really working his tail off felt very personal. It was a really hard time for our family.”

This, as written by Seth Davis and described by Lindsay Wojciechowski, did not happen. The 2020-21 season was the “no attendance because of COVID” season.

February 3, 2021: Marquette announces that they are exploring a way to let player and staff families attend games. Every game up til that point was required staff only. MU would play just two more home games after that. One was three days later, with announced attendance of zero people. The other was the final game of the season when 1,800 people were allowed access to Fiserv Forum. Now, I wasn’t at that game. Maybe 1,800 people scattered throughout Fiserv managed to make enough noise collectively that you could tell that they were chanting Fire Wojo. I don’t know.

But a repeated pattern of chanting at multiple games that season? Didn’t happen. Perhaps Lindsay is remembering the chants from the 2019-20 season and either she or Davis is attributing them to the wrong season. Lindsay Wojciechowski is allowed to misremember things. Seth Davis is not allowed to get his facts wrong.

In any case: Boo hoo. You (or your husband, in this case) are getting paid to win basketball games and you’re not. I get that the entire idea of losing is a culture shock from the 15 years of experience in Durham, but if you weren’t prepared for the possibility that your nickname to fit neatly into the four syllable/five claps chant sequence, that’s on you.

The Golden Eagles finished that season 13-14 (8-11 Big East) and failed to qualify for a postseason tournament. “That’s not good enough there,” Wojciechowski says flatly.

I would like to know what places that 13-14 and 8-11 in the league is good enough. No one, not even DePaul and their years of futility, would say “fine” to that result.

Remember when Seth Davis said that he had “accepted his fate” earlier in the article? Yeah, doesn’t sound like it, does it?

Please note that Davis fails to note that Marquette started off the year 5-2 with two wins over teams ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll at the time. Those two teams would finish the year with a collective record of 40-22 and each won at least one game in the 2021 NCAA tournament. Marquette went 8-12 after that point, including yet another six losses in seven games stretch after starting out Big East play with a mark of 4-4. Weird how the context of the repeated collapses supervised by Wojciechowski doesn’t get mentioned at all in this article.

He had some conversations with Scholl about changing the direction of the program, but when they couldn’t agree on the proper way to course correct, Scholl let him go.

No mention from Davis as to what the disagreement was about in particular, so we’re left to take this as a confirmation of Jeff Goodman’s reporting that Wojciechowski was told to shake up his coaching staff in order to keep his job and he refused. Given that Dwayne Killings had already taken the Albany job by the time Wojciechowski was let go, leaving an open spot to hire literally anyone, you’d think that shaking up the staff would be a non-issue. I am left to think either A) Wojciechowski refused to allow his boss to approve the new hire or B) Wojciechowski refused to let either Jake Presutti or Justin Gainey go.

And thus made Scholl fire him and by extension fire both Presutti and Gainey. Genius move, no notes.

Even though the Wojciechowskis loved Milwaukee and their sons were happy there, they decided it would be best to relocate and start over. They sold their house, went on vacation to Hawaii, and then settled in Park City, where several years earlier they had bought what they thought would be their second home.

Please note: The Wojciechowskis moved to Utah where they already owned a house. Per, the median listing price in October 2019 in Park City was just under $1.2 million and is now just short of $1.8 million. But hey, maybe they got a great deal years ago.

Skipping forward, because the next few paragraphs are the actually useful and interesting part of this profile. Davis discusses what Wojciechowski has been up to in the last 18 months, and it’s honestly quality work that I have no objection with, at least not for any reasons that we would find interesting.

Wojciechowski doesn’t ski or play golf, two popular activities in Park City, but he has had little trouble occupying his time. Aside from all the driving he and Lindsay do to school and practices (“We’re basically a couple of taxis,” she says)

Yes, this is called parenting. Hooray for you.

The guy who could hardly hang a picture is now shopping at hardware stores so he can help his father-in-law do small projects around the ranch house. He mows the front lawn once a week. He makes some extra cash working out local basketball players, and he reads at least 20 minutes a day.

Congrats, you’re reading as much as the average third grader.

A major highlight over the winter was the chance to go behind the scenes with the Utah Jazz, thanks to then-coach Quin Snyder, another former Duke point guard and who recruited Wojciechowski to Durham. Snyder gave Wojciechowski free reign to attend practices, sit in on coaches’ meetings and attend home and road games.

Snyder was fired at Missouri in 2006, so he could relate to what Wojciechowski was going through. As the season wore on, Snyder became increasingly reliant on Wojciechowski’s thoughts on the Jazz, the coaching profession and the crossroads that Snyder was himself approaching. “I got very curious about how he was framing things,” Snyder says. “I asked him to write out some thoughts, and I got these terrific long emails that were super thoughtful and introspective. To see him go from the fear of getting fired to actually have it be a liberating experience really resonated with me.”

The Jazz started out the season 20-7 through December 15th, then went thru a stretch of 2-11 basketball in January. They ultimately finished 49-33 and were eliminated in six games by the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs and Snyder resigned after the season was over. I don’t even have a witty comment here.

That leads to the inevitable question of when – or whether – Wojciechowski will coach again. And if so, at what level? His agent, Jimmy Sexton, fielded enough calls last spring to give Wojciechowski confidence that if he wants to return to college coaching, a good opportunity will be there for him. He served as an assistant coach with the USA Basketball team that won the bronze at the FIBA AmeriCup in Brazil earlier this month. Perhaps that experience will spark his competitive jones.

This is my favorite paragraph. “Hey, everybody, lots of people called superagent Jimmy Sexton last March and April to wonder if Wojciechowski was interested in returning right away to coaching, but he passed, so get your phone calls in now if you’re thinking about making a change!”

I would be fascinated to see what level of program reached out to Sexton. I don’t know how a Major Seven athletic director tries to sell “Well, Bill Belichick was bad with the Cleveland Browns, so we’re hoping that happens here” to their fans, and I don’t know if Wojciechowski is capable of hustling after it at somewhere like Illinois State, who just changed coaches this past offseason.

Indeed, Wojciechowski seems plenty content being off the treadmill, and taking a job in the next few years would mean moving his sons while they are still in high school. Marquette paid him a buyout of more than $9 million, so he won’t feel any financial pressure for a while. It’s not like he’s blowing all his money on cars.

Here’s some actual news for you, the discerning Marquette fan. Since MU is a private institution, their contracts are not subject to open records requests. We have to wait for tax records to get an idea of what the men’s basketball coach is getting paid, and given the nature of a buyout, that kind of thing might have never made it into the tax forms. Here’s Wojciechowski just letting it out into the open that the buyout — freshly readjusted in that new contract in 2019, remember — was $9 million when he was let go. That’s exactly the kind of cash that I thought would have been close to impossible for the university to pay out in October 2020, and yet, somehow, they made it work. Never doubt the university’s commitment to athletics.

Whoever negotiated and approved that buyout at the university in the wake of the 2019 collapse and the departure of the Hausers should be fired, or at the very least never allowed near a negotiating table ever again. This isn’t a retroactive opinion from me, I said I hoped the university protected themselves against a big buyout in the near future when the new contract was announced.

Towards the end of the long conversation by the teepee, Wojciechowski offers a glimpse of the warrior within. “I do know this,” he says. “If a day ever comes and it’s the right time and place for me to coach again, I’m in a much better frame of mind. I’m a better coach today than the day I got fired at Marquette.”

I would have loved to see Seth Davis make him elaborate on that. What we saw at Marquette was a repeated inability to adjust to persistent and reoccurring flaws in his teams to the point where they were actually getting worse. I don’t know how he can prove that he is a better coach to someone who might be trying to hire him, but just saying that he has a better worldview and peace of mind isn’t going to cut it.

And that’s that.

If you read the article and you think I missed some particular brand of nonsense in there, shout it out in the comments. If you didn’t read it because it’s a subscription site and you need something clarified, then holler about that, too!