May 1, 2017 -- Sitting in his home in Charleston, S.C., Doug Wojcik quickly called the Naval Academy’s athletic office. The 53-year-old, ex-Midshipman was looking to find a boxscore from his team’s 1985-86 season. Once he received the image, Wojcik immediately sent it over to the Blue Demons’ newly-hired assistant coach. At the top, the score read: Navy 67, DePaul 64.
Despite growing up in Crystal Lake, Ill., Shane Heirman became engrossed within the Notre Dame Fighting Irish fandom from the get-go.
His father, EnRico Heirman, grew up in Mishawaka, Ind. as a diehard fan of the Irish. His brother, Montana Heirman, is named after Joe Montana, who played at Notre Dame before becoming a four-time Super Bowl champion with the San Francisco 49ers. Additionally, some of his other family members are from nearby New Buffalo, Mich., embracing the blue and gold as well.
While attending Marian Central Catholic High School, Heirman carried on their passion for sports by suiting up for the varsity basketball team for three seasons. There, he averaged 20.4 points and 4.6 assists per game, leading the Hurricanes to three straight regional final appearances. After graduation, he spent a semester at Marquette before needing a change of scenery.
Although Notre Dame and the University of Tulsa are separated by just over 755 miles, then-19-year-old Heirman quickly recognized their transparent connection. The former’s “Warren Golf Course” is named after Bill Warren, a Tulsa, Okla. native. “Siegfried Hall,” one of Notre Dame’s student dormitories, is named after alumni Robert and Ray Siegfried, who also came from the same area.
Plus, then-Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik, who led the program from 2005-12, was an assistant at Notre Dame in the 1999-2000 campaign. Shortly after he left for the same position at North Carolina, his son, Paxson Wojcik, who’s named after Irish alum and former Chicago Bulls’ guard John Paxson, was born at the university.
Moreover, Heirman immediately sought out Wojcik following his arrival on Tulsa’s campus. The newcomer wasn’t guaranteed a spot as a walk-on before transferring, but Wojcik said he quickly was blown away with Heirman ability to connect with his future teammates and coaches alike. Those feelings were mutual, too.
“Coach Wojcik is incredible basketball mind, and he’s going to push you to be the best you can possibly be,” Heirman said.
Wojcik said walk-ons and their parents, in particular, usually become frustrated when playing time isn’t available. Typically, those parameters are never even discussed, considering the player is paying to suit up. However, Heirman was never focused on seeing the floor; he went onto average only 4.6 minutes per game in his three seasons on the Golden Hurricane.
Heirman demonstrated enough commitment to his eventual backup point guard duties to receive an athletic scholarship for his final two seasons at Tulsa. It was the only scholarship Wojcik ever handed out as a coach.
“It’s not that a kid (walk-on) can’t play for me, it’s whether he can help me win,” Wojcik said. “I felt like Shane completely understood that concept and embraced it. He earned everything he got.”
For Wojcik, a point guard is like a quarterback; he demonstrates command of the unit on each end of the court. Hence, Heirman fit the mold of a coach, and he was presented the opportunity immediately after graduating (?) from Tulsa in 2011, joining prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School.
He spent his first three seasons as an assistant (?) before becoming head coach prior to the 2014-15 campaign. During his time as the lead dog in La Porte, Ind., Heirman helped amass a 82-7 record. His final run culminated in a Dick’s Sporting Goods High School national championship, in which La Lumiere went 25-1. On top of that, the program finished No. 1 in USA Today’s Super 25 national rankings.
Amid his time at the prep school, Heirman helped reel in eventual 5-star recruits Jeremiah Tilmon, Brian Bowen, DePaul commit Tyger Campbell, along with the aforementioned Paxson Wojcik.
When the Wojcik's were determining which boarding school for their son to attend, the choice was evident. Just like Heirman invested his future in the then-Tulsa coach, Wojcik planned on returning the favor, knowing his son could develop soundly on and off the court under the man he used to whistle at.
“He (Heirman) still does stuff as a coach that I did because he believes in me,” Wojcik said. “Can there be any more trust than that?”
The 6-foot-4, 170-pound Wojcik, a class-of-2019 shooting guard, was offered a scholarship to DePaul in April. His other one stems from Columbia University.
Ironically, Wojcik is Campbell’s roommate at La Lumiere. Similar to Heirman and his son’s relationship, Doug Wojcik said Heirman and Campbell have built an uncommon amount of credence in one another, leading to the point guard’s decision to commit to DePaul.
On the recruiting trail, Heirman would constantly run into DePaul coach Dave Leitao, who was an assistant at Missouri (2012-14) and Tulsa (2014-15) at the time. Since Heirman played for the Golden Hurricane, the two immediately clicked. Heirman said cultivating authentic relationships is crucial while recruiting, and Leitao was no exception.
“We’ve vetted each other throughout the past few years and have build a genuine trust with each other,” Heirman said. “I’m excited to learn from him (at DePaul).”
Leitao said he was impressed with the ample amount of collegiate coaches Heirman kept in touch with across the country.
One of them was Rick Carter, who served as an assistant at Fairfield, Western Michigan, Missouri and Xavier before becoming the associate head coach at DePaul. Carter was even a graduate assistant at Michigan State under Wojcik, who was the Spartans’ associate head coach in the 2004-05 season.
Heirman said he and Carter are consistently on the same page in practice because they each learned the importance of preparation from Wojcik. However, their mentor saw one distinct difference on the court.
“Let’s put it this way. Shane was a player, and Rick wasn’t,” Wojcik laughed.
Sitting next to an unnerved Heirman in a well-lit conference room, no one should’ve expected a 29-year-old to conjure up such a poised mindset. Nevertheless, his well-oiled relationships have vaulted him towards his success, resulting in his prominent role at a Division I program. Even if two of its all-time greats in Rod Strickland and Dallas Comegys couldn’t fend off a once-athletic Wojcik and Hall of Famer David Robinson.
“I’ve got a pretty strong self belief in what we can get accomplished here (at DePaul),” Heirman said. “Once you feel it, you just have the execute it.”