Over at the Post and Courier, columnist Gene Sapako..."/> Over at the Post and Courier, columnist Gene Sapako..."/>

No Go Wojo (or Collins)


Over at the Post and Courier, columnist Gene Sapakoff has thrown his two cents into the Clemson Tigers coaching search. Well, actually, he’s thrown two Duke assistants into the Tigers coaching search.

Sapakoff suggests that Clemson should take a look at either Steve Wojciechowski or Chris Collins.

He says:

"Wojciechowski, with his signature floor-slapping enthusiasm on defense, consistently brought energy as a player. Clemson fans would love a similar approach to coaching and recruiting.Collins comes from hoops royalty. His father Doug was a college sharpshooter who played and coached in the NBA. He is one of the best TV analysts around."

Of course the last thing I really want to see is either Wojo or Collins roaming the sidelines at Little John. There’s taking a coaching job and then there’s taking a coaching job within the conference. Has that ever happen before (at least in the modern era of basketball)?

The fact is, this is sort of new territory. I can’t recall any time when either assistant coach was considered for a head coaching job anywhere. There were rumors that Illinois State was interested in Chris Collins back in 2007, but that was just rumors based on the fact that their court is named after his father. As for Wojo, I can’t think of anything.

So why no love for Collins and Wojo? Especially when you consider how easily it was former assistants Tommy Amaker and Quinn Snyder to get solid job offers.

I think I have a reason, but remember, it’s only my opinion. I think there has been a bit of a negative stigma on Duke assistant coaches recently.

Forget being a Duke fan for a moment.  If you’re the A.D. of another school looking for a coach, when you look at the guys sitting next to Coach K, you have to wonder, did Krzyzewski pick these guys because they are great students of the game and would be great coaches, or did he just stock his bench with a bunch of loyal former players?

Just look at the Duke’s assistant coaches over the years, it’s a who’s who of former players (Wojo, Collins, Dawkins, Amaker, Snyder, Bias, just to name a few). Even I have to ask, could Coach K’s coaching tree really be this rich and full?

Now asking whether Duke’s assistants are any good over the past few years has been a fair question. Duke certainly hasn’t lived up to its own standard of winning. Plus, two big reasons for Duke’s “decline” had to do with A) a failure to land big stars in recruitment and B) failure to “develop” the Blue Devils’ front court.

Of course, those two big concerns were basically erased when Duke took home the National Championship this past season. Yet, I still don’t see people knocking down doors in Cameron to get to Coach K’s assistants.

The fact is, Duke’s former players/assistants do not have a successful track record as head coaches…yet.

As you should already know, faithful followers of Duke basketball, Coach Quinn Snyder did lead Missouri to four straight NCAA Tournaments in his first four seasons, including a trip to the elite eight in 2002. Of course, Snyder was never able to build on this success. After two N.I.T. season, he was fired midway through the 2005-2006 season.

Tommy Amaker rolled into Seton Hall at the age of 31, becoming the youngest coach in Big East history. In four seasons he took a bad Pirates team and led them to three N.I.T. trips and to the Sweet 16 in the 2000 NCAA Tournament. After bringing in the No 2 ranked recruitment class to Seton Hall in 2000, he abandonment ship to take the Michigan job. The Wolverines were a bruised and battered basketball team, thank to years of scandal.

Despite dealing with probation, Amaker was able to turn things around at Michigan. He led them to the N.I.T. championship in 2004 and was the runner-up in 2006. However, despite producing three 20-win seasons (in his final four years) and restoring the ethical reputation of Michigan basketball, Amaker was fired in 2007.

Two former players/assistant coaches…two firings. Fair or not, these firings reflect on all former Duke players/assistants.

Of course, there is still plenty of time to turn this around.

Quinn Snyder is currently coaching in the NBA Development league, earning coach of the year in 2009. I would not be stunned to find him coaching in college again one day (or even getting to the NBA as an assistant coach).

Amaker was recently handed the keys to Harvard and in only three seasons, has turned a eight-win team into a 21-7 team this past year. He’s also beaten Boston College the past two years, which is probably why his name was floated around as a replacement for Al Skinner.

And of course, there is Johnny Dawkins (the man I expect to one day take over at Duke when Coach K retires). He’s just wrapped up his second season as head coach of Stanford. Dawkins took over a Cardinal program that had some success under Mike Montgomery Trent Johnson , but the reality is, Mike left an empty cupboard. However, Dawkins is slowly rebuilding the Cardinal. In fact, he has the 18th best class coming in this fall.

If these former players/coaches can find success, then it will only open up more opportunities for assistant coaches like Wojo, Collins and even Nate James down the road.