Induction Year: 2004
Location: West Islip
Bob Wenzel was an athlete himself before beginning his distinguished basketball coaching career. A 1967 graduate of West Islip High School., he was an All-League and All-County basketball player. He led his team to the Suffolk County Basketball Championship. He attended Rutgers University on a basketball scholarship where he was the team’s MVP in 1969-70 and 1970-71. During his college career he scored a total of 728 points in 54 games, for an average of 13.5 per game.
In 1971, Bob began his coaching career at the University of Utah as a graduate assistant, where he earned his master’s degree in education. In 1973-74, he became the assistant coach at Yale University.
From 1974 to 1980, he was the assistant coach at Duke University, where he was instrumental in recruiting many of Duke’s star players, helping them reach the 1978 NCAA championship game. In Wenzel’s final three seasons, the Blue Devils achieved 27-8, 22-7, and 22-9 where they participated in the NCAA tournament for each of those years.
In 1980-81 he became the assistant coach at South Carolina and in 1981 got his first head coach job at Jacksonville University in Florida, where he stayed until 1987. There he turned a program that was in disarray into a winner. Wenzel’s 1985-86 and 1986-87 teams went to the NCAA and NIT respectively. In 1986 the Florida Sports-writers Association named him Coach of the Year, and he also received District 6 Coach of the Year honors from the National Association of Basketball Coaches. During the 1985-86 season, Bob suffered a life threatening cerebral aneurysm and received the Most Courageous Award from the National Sportswriters Association for returning to the sidelines.
After his seasons at Jacksonville University, Bob was hired to be the assistant coach for the New York Nets for the 1987-1988 season. In 1988, he became the head coach at his alma mater, Rutgers, where he stayed until 1997.
In his first season at Rutgers, he had one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA history – from 7 wins in 1987 to 18 in 1988. He guided them to Atlantic 10 Championships in 1988-89 and 1990-91 and was named Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 1988-89. He ushered in the Big East era at Rutgers in 1995-96 and led them to 2 NCAA and NIT appearances.
Currently, Bob resides in Florida with his wife and family and works as a Basketball Analyst for ESPN.