BREAKING: Marquette Athletics parts ways with head coach Steve Wojciechowski

Steve+Wojciechowski+coaches+from+the+sidelines.+

Photo by Marquette Wire stock photo

Steve Wojciechowski coaches from the sidelines.

After seven seasons as head coach of Marquette men’s basketball, the university decided to part ways with Steve Wojciechowski this afternoon.

“After a thorough evaluation of our program over the last week, which included multiple conversations with Steve, I concluded that now is the right time for a new leader of our storied program,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “I’m confident that our history of success and our commitment to developing young men who are leaders on and off the court will attract the highest caliber of coaching talent.”

Scholl thanked Wojciechowski for his dedication to student athletes and how he has represented the men’s basketball program and the university. In a media press conference Friday afternoon, Scholl said it was a sad day, but he had many conversations with Wojciechowski the past couple of weeks.

“We talked a lot about what the expectations are and what we need to do to get better and continue on the right trajectory. There were just some areas at the end of the day where we felt differently about what was the right way to go on some things,” Scholl said. “At some point you take a look at where the program currently stands and how we are moving forward together and sometimes you have to make the hard decision and that’s what we did.”

Later Friday afternoon, Wojciechowski posted statement addressed to the Marquette community on Instagram.

“I know this isn’t the ending any of us hoped for back in 2014 but it has been my honors to serve as your coach for these past seven years. Marquette is a truly special place and I am going to miss it,” Wojciechowski said in the post. “Marquette has some of the most passionate fans you will ever find in college basketball, and to all of those who had encourage words over the past seven years — and even some of those who didn’t — I want you too know that I admire and respect your passion. I wish the entire Marquette community nothing but the best, and thank you from the bottom of my heart. All the best, Wojo.”

When Scholl called the student athletes into the locker room for a meeting, they already knew what had happened. He said social media has played a role in who actually shares the news with players.

“It’s one of the worst parts of my job,” Scholl said. “Our players, for the most part, were having a terrific experience and have tremendous respect for Steve. … They feel for Coach Wojo and his family.”

This comes after the Golden Eagles ended the 2020-21 season with a 13-14 overall record and a 68-49 loss in the first round of the BIG EAST Tournament to the Georgetown Hoyas, the eventual tournament champions. The past two consecutive years, in 2018-19 and 2019-20, Wojciechowski’s squads ended each season losing six out of their last seven games.

After becoming head coach in 2014 and spending seven seasons with the Golden Eagles, Wojciechowski amassed an overall record of 128-95 and 59-68 in the BIG EAST. His winning percentage was .574 overall and .465 in conference. He helped Marquette to two NCAA Tournament at-large bids and a National Invitational Tournament finals appearance in 2017.

The program has historically been successful winning the 1977 NCAA Championship under legendary head coach Al McGuire, as well as 33 NCAA Tournament appearances consisting of 16 Sweet Sixteen, seven Elite Eight and three Final Four appearances.

“A storied program like this, and the support we provide to it, I think competing pretty consistently at the top of the BIG EAST, certainly regular stream of NCAA bids and the occasional opportunity to run deep in March, those are all things we, as a program, should aspire to,” Scholl said. “As I look forward, I’m going to look for somebody who feels the same way and somebody we believe can make that happen.”

Scholl said Wojciechowski met many of the expectations they placed around the program like recruiting men with character.

“He did it the right way,” Scholl said. “In so many of the ways that you want to judge a program, he was truly hitting it out of the park.”

With the new NCAA rule regarding transferring without penalty, Scholl said he is concerned about what the ripple effect Wojciechowski leaving will have on Marquette’s future commits Stevie Mitchell and Kam Jones, as well as the possibility of retaining current players like Dawson Garcia and D.J. Carton.

“You just wouldn’t have your eyes open if you didn’t think this could certainly be a reason for somebody to begin looking around,” Scholl said. “Let’s be honest with each other, a huge piece of any recruiting decision is the head coach. … When the head coach changes, I don’t fault our student athletes at all for thinking ‘is this still the right place?'”

The Severna Park, Maryland native still has two seasons remaining on his contract after receiving a five-year extension in May 2019 until the 2023-24 season. The statement said that the “transition cost and obligations related to the change in coaching leadership will be paid for entirely by Intercollegiate Athletics.”

“We have worked with our finance folks,” Scholl said. “We made this move knowing that it was going to be on Intercollegiate Athletics to absorb the costs of the transition. … We’re going to have to tighten our belts and we’re going to have to raise some more money and we’re going to have to maybe sell some more tickets. But we will get that done.”

The statement said Marquette will start searching for a new head coach immediately. Scholl said he does have a list of preliminary candidates for the position. Although he has a bias for hiring a sitting head coach, he said he won’t rule anyone out just on that alone.

“The learning curve tends to be shorter (for head coaches),” Scholl said. “I’m never going to just say that’s the only route I’ll go. … Let’s face it, we all had to have that first head job, me included as an athletic director.”

Not only does Scholl want someone who values education, does not have any NCAA compliance situations and is an effective recruiter, but he also wants someone who has a solidified offensive and defensive identity.

“It’s not always about trying to find a five-star kid … but that’s not the be-all end-all,” Scholl said. “That kind of identity creation, ‘what kind of defense am I going to play,’ and ‘am I going to recruit the kind of kid who can do that.’ It’s probably 9, 10, 11 things like that that we use as a measuring stick.”

He also mentioned character and willingness to be a teammates with other coaches within the department are important elements for a potential candidate.

“The right head coach — and by the way Steve was that — is always willing to help our other coaches,” Scholl said. “To help student athletes from other sports. Gets on the phone to recruit soccer players.”

Out of 14 head coaches at Marquette, only two of them are women and only one is a person of color. Scholl told the Marquette Wire back in August the athletics department has to work harder to hire people with diverse backgrounds. Again Friday he had a similar message.

“Every hire we make, diversity is a critical piece of the equation,” Scholl said.

Scholl said his final message to fans is a bittersweet one.

“Steve Wojciechowski is a phenomenal guy,” Scholl said. “In some ways you kind of feel like a member of our Marquette community has gone away. I hope I’m not the only one who feels that way. … I certainly am excited about beginning the process of seeing who comes in and sits in the chair for our program going forward.”

This story is still developing.

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu or on Twitter @zoe_comerford