Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Izzo hires new coach, 1 spot remains open

April 23, 2003

Men's basketball coach Tom Izzo has a new benchmate.

Former University of North Carolina assistant coach Doug Wojcik said on Tuesday he'll fill one of the team's two assistant coaching vacancies.

Wojcik, 39, formally accepted the position after roughly a week of speculation that had the Wheeling, W.Va., native and former Notre Dame and Navy assistant coach seemed destined to coach in East Lansing.

"I don't know if there's any more storied program in the country than North Carolina," Wojcik told The State News during a phone interview. "But it's obviously exciting because Izzo is phenomenal. There are few people that have his credentials."

Known as a dogged recruiter and a tireless player developer in his 14 years as an assistant coach, Wojcik will be asked to fill the shoes of departed coaches Brian Gregory and Mike Garland.

Gregory accepted the head coaching position at Dayton on April 9 and Garland was named the head coach of Cleveland State on Friday.

Izzo said in a statement that Wojcik was the perfect candidate to join the MSU bench, which includes remaining assistant coach Mark Montgomery.

"I received input from many different places and he received high recommendations from several of the top coaches in the country," Izzo said. "From the beginning, I wanted to bring in someone that was a good fit for both Mark and myself and Doug fits that perfectly."

As a collegiate player at Navy from 1983-1987, Wojcik was a teammate of Gregory and David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs.

Both Izzo and Wojcik cited assistance from Gregory as factors in Tuesday's decision, but Wojcik was quick to point out that he hadn't been tabbed just yet as Gregory's successor as associate head coach.

"I don't think anyone is stepping into the associate coaching position yet," Wojcik said. "(Izzo) was obviously very comfortable with Brian over the years. I just know I'll be doing the same thing I have been over the past 14 years - coaching, scouting and player development."

Wojcik had been an assistant under Matt Doherty at North Carolina and Notre Dame since the 1999-2000 season. Wojcik entered the job market after Doherty (53-43 overall at North Carolina) was fired at the end of this season.

Player development might be Wojcik's trump card as he adjusts to life as a Spartan. He said he is "really excited" at the notion of working with the young MSU squad.

He said he'd worked with sophomore guard Chris Hill while courting him to play at Notre Dame, and made a trip to Slovenia to watch freshman forward Erazem Lorbek.

Hefty experience with nationally prominent collegiate basketball programs points to Wojcik continuing the trend of Izzo assistants taking on their own teams - Tom Crean at Marquette, Stan Joplin at Toledo, Stan Heath at Arkansas, Gregory and Garland - but Wojcik isn't looking that far into the future.

"(It's) not necessarily a stepping stone," he said. "I'm looking at it as an opportunity to win a national championship.

"I've always viewed this profession as a marathon, not a sprint."

With rumors laid to rest Tuesday about Wojcik's fate as a Spartan, there remains one more spot left to be filled.

Speculation has Marquette assistant coach and former MSU forward Dwayne Stephens tapped to round out Izzo's coaching staff for the coming season. Stephens coached the Golden Eagles to their first Final Four since 1977 and was a member of the Spartans' 1990 Big Ten championship team.

And as if the coaching carousel wasn't confusing enough, Marquette on Tuesday extended the contract of head coach Tom Crean. Crean was rumored to fill the coaching vacancy at Illinois with former Fighting Illini head coach Bill Self moving to Kansas. Self replaced Roy Williams at Kansas, who in turn replaced Doherty at North Carolina.

"There certainly may be an opportunity for Dwayne to go back to Michigan State and work for Tom," Crean told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "If that were to happen, I would wish him the best and never stand in his way."

Discussion

Share and discuss “Izzo hires new coach, 1 spot remains open” on social media.