POSTED ON MARCH 14, 2012:
Teach Me How to Dougie
There are only so many good basketball coaches, but there are a lot more sports columnists available
Prior to the University of Tulsa dismissing men's basketball coach Doug Wojcik on March 11, I had the chance to interview him one-on-one. What follows is the thoughts of a man who knew how much was riding on his last home game against Memphis and the C-USA tournament.
How would you react if your boss came up to you Monday morning with a list full of changes to your job description? Would you celebrate?
More than likely you would flash a grin, nod and look away gritting your teeth. No one likes change regardless of what they said.
Sports fans and media never let this fact change the way they call for a coach's head.
For example. There is a former OSU football coach now plying his trade in Baton Rouge. The Cajuns down there wanted his head on a seafood platter after a couple of botched time clock issues.
He led his squad to an undefeated regular season. If the mob had their way would the program be on the same level?
This is not to compare University of Tulsa men's basketball coach Doug Wojcik to Les Miles. Miles has a national title under his hat while Wojcik scratched and clawed for national (and local) respect for his program.
"The bottom line for a coach is winning if you want to argue that point," said Wojcik. "I define my role in a much bigger role. I define my role as a teacher, a mentor, a father figure, an example of a leader. I talk to the guys all the time about character and having passion and certainly having toughness."
His ears function. The calls for a change at the Reynolds Center were noted. This concluded his seventh season at the University of Tulsa.
Fans only want to see a NCAA tournament bid. That is it. In the Conference USA landscape over the past seven years the only way to earn a bid was to win the postseason tournament.
"I can totally understand the judgment on the bottom line, no conference championship. But I'm not going to judge myself and my program on the bottom line. I cannot win the argument on the bottom line. But in terms on consistence we have never finished below sixth. We have always finished in the top half."
His squads averaged more than 20 wins per season since his second year. This will be the fourth year in a row one of his players earned all conference honors.
The Golden Hurricane and Memphis are the only two teams to make it to the semifinal round of the C-USA tournament in the previous four seasons, not including this one obviously.
In 2008 his team lost to the current NBA MVP's team. In 2009 they came up short against the NBA's fifth overall pick that year.
"I know I need to be good every year. The challenge for me as a coach at the University of Tulsa is no one has ever been here in the last 40 years as long as me."
Ben Uzoh and Jerome Jordan are NBA players. The season after they left a drop off was expected. He still managed to win 19 games.
"Realistically there is going to be drop offs at time. Whether people like to hear that or not it is a shame. If you want to criticize me on that it is fine. I'm not making excuses. We have been consistently good."
Wojcik is the all-time winningest coach in TU history. Every one of his seniors received a diploma. While his day-to-day and game-to-game preparations have prohibited reflection on the former, he is extremely proud of the latter.
"I can tell you our time is coming. I can still accomplish (a NCAA berth) but I would not compromise somebody not graduating for that. I just wished that everybody that played for me would have that experience of playing in the NCAA tournament. That is every kid's goal. It hasn't happened but at the same time I will be heartbroken, disappointed, upset the first time that somebody doesn't graduate."
This interview was conducted on the eve of TU's final home game of the season. They lost to Memphis once again. Subsequently Marshall ousted them from the C-USA tournament after a triple-overtime contest.
Fans enjoy discussing attendance figures. They like to hark back to the good ol' days when Bill Self filled the arena.
Truth be told they are only remembering the big games against Hawaii and Fresno State. No one recalls the empty seats during November and December. Our minds are playing tricks on us.
We talked about his Beach Boys/attendance/atmosphere rant back in 2007. The subject made him a bit uncomfortable to this day. "It is certainly not anything against the Beach Boys or people enjoying the Beach Boys."
Organizations across the nation and especially in Tulsa battle year after year for your entertainment dollar. The Reynolds Center is home to a Jerry Jones-esque video board. It all adds to the fans experience which in turn he hopes adds to his student-athlete experience.
"It is also about a kid running out of the tunnel and having such a good experience that we retain these kids. In today's culture, so many kids transfer. The last thing I ever want when I recruit a kid is for him to leave Tulsa. I want him to come, play and graduate.
"The environment is really important. I know winning is a big part of that. I understand that. It is also a kid feeling good about playing the game and being excited."
A Friday night gridiron battle between Jenks and Union at one time filled Chapman Stadium. The attendance for this colossal matchup has dropped in recent years. One wonders if TU AD Parmley took this into consideration when he cited the 35 percent decrease in season-ticket sales. It is just part of living in 2012 with so many entertainment options.
Does any of this matter? Most Tulsans are headstrong and already have a well-shaped opinion. Just know the next time you are calling for his head after a crushing defeat that you are basically trying to relive the "golden" years and who is to say they are ever coming back.
Does this stop our daily paper's John Klein from calling for his job after a loss to Marshall? If TU won and eventually lost in the C-USA title game would he still call for his head? What would be the difference since they would have come up short in both scenarios?
People whisper Klein has lost his fastball. His more esteemed colleague recently went into semiretirement while still throwing darts.
Perhaps the change Tulsa needs is an injection of youth into the sports coverage instead of a tired takes and regurgitated nonsense.
We might be able to do better than Wojcik but we can certainly do better than Klein.
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