April 13, 2005
It has recently come through on the transaction pages that a number of assistant coaches are getting the opportunity to run their own programs. They move up from second lieutenant to take over their own ship, moving into the spotlight and pressure of the head-coaching world.
They get to make their own decisions, take charge of recruiting and experience the day-to-day rigors of running their own program.
I was thrilled to see Doug Wojcik, the former North Carolina and Notre Dame assistant under Matt Doherty, and most recently an assistant at Michigan State under Tom Izzo, take over at Tulsa. He is going to a first-class program that has been a cradle for coaches, with the likes of Tubby Smith, Steve Robinson, Buzz Peterson, Nolan Richardson and Bill Self gaining experience there.
Reggie Theus is getting an opportunity at New Mexico State. He did a fine job helping Rick Pitino as a member of the Louisville staff.
Wojcik showed his leadership as a player with David Robinson at Navy. He is very cerebral and has great leadership skills from his days with the Midshipmen. He was a great choice for Tulsa.
Down at Tulane, Dave Dickerson is getting his opportunity at a fine academic school that must give him the opportunity to recruit the talent needed to compete in Conference USA. He is an excellent choice as he moves on from Maryland and coach Gary Williams, who allows his assistants to be involved with his intense program.
Williams also lost Mike Lonergan from his staff. Lonergan is taking over at Vermont, replacing popular retiring coach Tom Brennan. It would be nice if Taylor Coppenrath were coming back, but he isn't! Lonergan is going to a school that received great visibility with its shocking upset of Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, Reggie Theus is getting an opportunity at New Mexico State. He did a fine job helping Rick Pitino as a member of the Louisville staff. I really feel that Theus is ready to run his own show.
Other assistants are also getting chances. Orlando Early was a longtime assistant at Alabama, but now he's getting his shot as a head coach at Louisiana-Monroe. Also, West Virginia assistant Jeff Neubauer was recently hired as head coach at Eastern Kentucky.
In addition to those moves to the top spot, there are guys like Fred Hill Jr., who decided to take the associate head-coaching position at Rutgers, leaving a Villanova program that is loaded for the 2005-06 season. Hill Jr. certainly has head-coaching potential and deserves an opportunity.
There are so many assistants who simply need an opportunity to show their ability to teach and lead. Think about Roy Williams before Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick took a chance and gave him the opportunity. Now he is a future Hall of Famer, baby!
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.