WHEELING - When the University of Tulsa fired Doug Wojcik as its men's basketball coach following a three-overtime loss to Marshall in March's Conference USA Tournament, a collective ''What?!'' could be heard throughout the Ohio Valley.
Coaches get fired frequently in big-time sports. But when that coach was the school's all-time leader in victories, had just one losing season (his first there), guided the school to back-to-back 25-victory seasons and a CBI crown in 2008, it left supporters scratching their heads.
Wojcik wasn't unemployed long. Less than a month after being fired, the Wheeling Central graduate was hired by the College of Charleston to replace the retiring Bobby Cremins.
Tulsa's loss is certainly Charleston's gain.
''Coach Cremins left me a great group,'' Wojcik said recently during a telephone interview from his office at the Southern Conference school.
''They all have very good character and we could not be more pleased with they way (the players) have bought in and have done the things we want them to do.''
Wojcik made a good point about character. Yes, he wants to win. Who doesn't? But sometimes, winning can't be the entire focus, especially on a college campus.
During his seven seasons coaching the Golden Hurricane, Wojcik made sure his program maintained a high Academic Progress Rate (ACR). His players had a perfect graduation rate among those that stayed through their senior year.
''That streak is ongoing, so I don't want that to be broken,'' Wojcik said laughing. ''I'm being selfish about that.
''But I'm very proud of that. I think most players will really appreciate that the older they get.
''I think it goes to show how I've had good kids and they've done the right things. It helps when you have good kids.''
And good mentors.
While Wojcik was attending Wheeling Central and playing basketball, he struck up a pretty close friendship with a history teacher and coach. That man laid the foundation for most everything Wojcik does today.
''I'll tell you where it comes from and I think people in the valley can appreciate this,'' the Wheeling Island native said. ''It really comes from Coach (Skip) Prosser.
''He taught us life skills ... life values. That's where I saw that the most and I take that seriously in what I do now. I try to carry on his legacy.''
Prosser, the late Maroon Knights coach who went on to great collegiate success at a number of schools including Xavier and Wake Forest, was a driving force for Wojcik during his formative years. Now, it's a coach he worked with as an assist at Michigan State - Tom Izzo.
''Those two people have influenced me greatly,'' Wojcik, the son of Fred and Martha Wojcik, said.
''Tom Izzo is like the big brother I never had. I just love the guy.
''I probably don't do anything professionally without talking to him about it.''
Wojcik considers himself a teacher, a professor on the court. It runs in his family as his sister, Denise Basich, is a teacher at Corpus Christi in Warwood.
''Keep this in mind,'' he said. ''I'm the 'CEO' of a small company and my employees are 20- 21-year-olds. We're building trust and building discipline and the things it takes to win and complete for championships.''
Rick Thorp can be reached via e-mail at RThorp@news-register.net