Cracks in Wake’s Foundation

Mike Krzyzewski lost far more games than he wanted to over his first three seasons as coach at Duke, but he spent those three seasons laying the foundation for one of the great programs in the history of college basketball.

Dean Smith lost far more games than he wanted to over his first three seasons as coach at North Carolina, but he spent those three seasons laying the foundation for one of the great programs in the history of college basketball.

Danny Manning has lost far more games than he wanted to over his first four seasons at Wake Forest, but the foundation he laid was not made of the solid concrete and steel used by Krzyzewski and Smith. The best substance Manning could apparently come up with was a brittle brand of shale, the kind that cracks all over the place right before your very eyes.

Two more gaping fissures developed Friday when it was revealed that juniors Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore will evaluate their professional options for next season. And how it was revealed may be as telling as the news itself.

Those still invested in the fortunes of Wake basketball were informed via Twitter. As I sit here at 2 p.m. on Saturday, 24 hours after the news came out, there’s no mention on that the program’s two most experienced players are testing the professional waters and, thus, may not return for next season. Nor has their been any comment on the news from Manning or, for that matter, any member of the program.

Conor O’Neill of the Winston-Salem Journal presented the news as “expected,’’ pointing out that by not hiring agents Crawford and Moore have until May 30 to withdraw from professional consideration and retain their final season of college eligibility. And maybe in the fly-by-night era of college basketball, that’s just what any player with any hopes whatsoever of ever playing professionally should do.

And if they do decide to return, no harm no foul.

But if you’re a fan who has stuck with Wake during the doldrums of the past eight years, you’ve watched Rich Washington leave in February, and Donovan Mitchell and Keyshawn Woods bolt in March. And lest we forget, Samuel Japhet-Mathias was dismissed back in early February for “not meeting program expectations.’’

And all that comes a season after John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou departed for the pros with eligibility remaining.

Check out all the NBA mock drafts you want, and I’ll buy you a beer down at Muddy Creek Cafe some Thursday night if you find Bryant Crawford or Doral Moore on any of them. Is there anybody, other than family and the closest of friends, telling them they’re blowing a great opportunity by not availing themselves to the draft?

And doesn’t that beg the question that no one who still cares for Wake basketball wants to ask.

Just who wants to play basketball for Danny Manning at Wake Forest?

The one moment of sunshine during Manning’s time at Wake was as fleeting as December daylight in Fairbanks, Alaska, when the Deacons made the First Four of the 2017 NCAA Tournament only to be summarily dispatched by Kansas State 95-88.

And on Easter of 2018, scarcely a year later, there is one player who played in that game who is fully committed to playing for Wake next season. We’re talking about Brandon Childress, a reserve guard who happens to be the son of the associate head coach.

The Wake was only two players from respectability when Dave Odom took over the program in 1989. But those two players happened to be Rodney Rogers and Randolph Childress.

Manning did land one All-ACC player, Collins, but, again, in this fly-by-night era of college basketball he couldn’t keep him past Collins’ one season of stardom. And maybe there will be another All-ACC player in the incoming class of Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, Sharone Wright, Jr., Jamie Lewis and Christian Lorng.

But let Moore and Crawford leave for whatever money they can find anywhere, and it would take more than Rodney Rogers and Randolph Childress to elevate the Deacons past Manning’s high-water mark of a 10th-place finish in the ACC. And without doing an exhaustive review, it’s my sense that most players who test the pro waters end up taking the plunge.

There are plenty of reasons a player might leave a program, and not all of them have to do with pro prospects.

Danny Manning has coached basketball for four years at Wake, and from all indications, will coach a fifth. Meanwhile the foundation he has spent his time laying is crumbling beneath his feet.

And if you want to know how fast it’s crumbling, better keep an eye on the Wake Forest Men’s Basketball twitter feed.

What Can Become of a Mid-Life Crisis

Today, Thursday, is the day I wake up with a big grin on my face, for I know in a matter of hours (I’m retired, so I get up late) I’ll be headed down to Bethania to make music the way it was meant to be made with a dozen or so of my closest friends.

Most of these friends were folks I didn’t know until June 6, 2014, the fateful day we launched Open Mic at Muddy Creek. And now, going on four years later, I count many among my closest friends in the world.

Shared experiences draw people closer, and we’ve had our share – and then some – of wonderful experiences since Bill Heath, the music mogul of Muddy Creek Cafe, agreed that we should give an Open Mic a go down in the historical Moravian settlement some dozen or so miles northwest of Winston.

You’re always among friends, we like to say, down at Muddy Creek Cafe, where everybody is somebody. And that’s the ambience we’re after from 6:15, when we congregate to draw for the picking order until we conclude the graveyard shift sometime usually between 9:30 and 10.

We’re talking old-folks’ hours, totally befitting a man of my advanced age.

A good number of the regulars are long-time fixtures of the Winston musical scene I’ve known since my mid-life’s crisis of the early 21st century.

After spending a good dozen years concentrating almost totally on my career and helping to raise Nate (born in 1986) and Rebecca (1990), I woke up one day at 50 years old realizing I needed something new to wake up to.

So instead of buying a flashy red convertible to tool around town in, or maybe buying a rug to wear on my balding head, I tossed Buckshot, my 1967 Gibson J-45 in the car and began scouting around Winston to find places I might play these old songs I had spent the previous 35 years of my life writing.

I fell into a totally happening little bar down on Burke Street called The Rubber Soul, which had a rocking Open Mic every Wednesday night. I started haunting the bar week after week to play, and thankfully, as bad as I was during those days, nobody ever ran me off.

The scene at the Rubber Soul finally died around 2005, though thankfully the three people shot in there the Monday Night the Charles Greene Band had the place packed and pulsating all survived.

To keep the good times rolling, I talked my good buddies Richard Emmett and Kimberly Lawson into letting me ramrod an Open Mic at the Garage. And what a great run we had there from July of 2007 until 2011 gave way to 2012. We always had plenty of musicians on hand ready to play, but when the number of patrons who’d show to watch us – and drink adult beverages – began to dwindle we all decided the scene had run his course.

But I was still writing songs, and I still needed a place to play them. To me, it’s hard to say I’ve actually written a song until I’ve show-tested it, and gone out and played it in front of people.

So it was a happy day when Bill Heath decided to see what we could get going down at Muddy Creek Cafe. And it’s been a happy day pretty much every Thursday since.

What I found in the downtime between the Garage and Muddy Creek Cafe is that if running an Open Mic were easy anybody could do it. I couldn’t find anybody who could do it the way it had been done at The Rubber Soul and the Garage, so I decided to do it myself.

One lesson I learned off the top is that you treat everyone the way they should be treated. Getting up in front of people is a harrowing experience, especially when you’re baring you soul by playing your own songs. So you strive to make everything as comfortable as possible for everybody that plays.

Again, you’re always among friends at Muddy Creek Cafe.

I also found that the three-song set is the way to go. It’s as perfect to an Open Mic show as the 90-foot base paths are to baseball. It just works.

We allot everyone 15 minutes, and as it turns out, some people run long but others run short. If we limited it to strictly 15 minutes, people would have to cut off a song before it was finished, and we wouldn’t want that.

We don’t care what kind of music you play or what instrument you play it on. It’s your 15-minute set, so fill it up anyway you want. If you want to pull out a cello and saw off some Rachmaninoff, we’re all ears.

We do, however, give extra credit for originals. You deserve a gold star for showing your soul.

Everybody who comes regularly is a part of the scene, whether they’re musicians or not. The experience at the Garage taught us that if nobody came to listen to us play, we wouldn’t be able to play for long.

But the biggest lesson I would give anyone thinking they might like to ramrod an Open Mic is to make sure you find you a trail boss you can work with.

I use the term ramrod because running an Open Mic through a night of music and mayhem is not unlike driving dogies to market. And if you’re, like me, old enough to remember the Classic TV Show Rawhide you can remember a young Clint Eastwood playing the role of a ramrod named Rowdy Yates. In this production, I’m Rowdy Yates.

But it’s Bill Heath who plays the role of Gil Favor, the trail boss ultimately responsible for getting those dogies into tin cans. Like Rowdy answered to Gil, I answer to Bill. It’s his establishment.

What I’ve come to learn is that if the ramrod and trail boss are simpatico, if they get along, then there’s no problem too big that can’t be solved. But if the ramrod and trail boss are at loggerheads, then there’s no problem too small to derail the whole scene.

Bill and I get along famously, so Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe keeps flourishing.

Bitter winter weather has kept us cooped up inside the cafe these past number of weeks, so I’m so happy to look outside at the spring sunshine and realize we’ll be tumbling out onto the deck for tonight’s show. It doesn’t really work inside, but we make it work because everybody looks after each other. But it’s outside, on the deck that Bill keeps upgrading and improving, where you’ll find the best of Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe.

If you play, come on down at play with us. Signups, like I said, are at 6:15. If you’re just a music lover, you’ll find plenty to love at Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe.

Brace Yourself ACC: Mack is Back

So 14 years after he left the ACC, Chris Mack has returned.

Welcome back Chris. Knowing that I won’t be on assignment when your Louisville team first travels to Joel Coliseum to play Wake makes me almost regret that I retired from the Winston-Salem Journal seven months ago.


No one was surprised to hear back in 2004 that Mack was leaving Wake to join Sean Miller’s staff at Xavier. We all knew Chris’ heart belonged at X, where he spent his last two college seasons after transferring from Evansville.

Besides, at Wake, both Jeff Battle and Dino Gaudio were entrenched as veteran assistants and we all could see that that a spot on Miller’s bench in Miller’s first season at Xavier would give Chris more upward mobility toward the obvious goal of some day running his own program.

And speaking of his heart, Chris’ fiance, Christi Hester, happened to be the director of basketball operations for the Xavier women’s team. They were married upon his return to Cincinnati and began a family that now includes daughters Lainee (12) and Hailee (11) and son Brayden (3).

Future college recruiters should keep a close eye on the Mack family. Chris was a reserve at Xavier under Pete Gillen, but the exploits of Christi are still remembered at the University of Dayton today, where, known affectionately by her nickname “Socks’’ she poured in 1,268 points for the Flyers.

In 2014, Christi Hester Mack was inducted in university’s Hall of Fame. The fact that she grew up in Louisville could well have been an inducement for the Macks to leave Xavier and return to Kentucky.

And no one who knew Chris during his three seasons with Skip Prosser’s staff could be surprised at his meteoric rise in the profession. He had an intensity about him, a real edge, and he could push people harder than they, at times, wanted to be pushed. What I remember best though was his bright mind.

When Prosser decided Wake needed a fresh new marketing campaign to promote the program, he put Mack’s bright mind to work. The idea Mack came up with was the tie-dye attire with the Deacon mascot rolling out in pregame on his chopper.

It all may be weak sauce today, but at the time the pulsating energy at Joel Coliseum when the Deacons took the court was something to experience.

It was Mack’s body of work at Xavier, where he compiled a 215-97 record and made the NCAA Tournament eight of nine years, that convinced Louisville this week that he was the right man for their head job.

My bet is that they will have plenty of reasons to celebrate their decision. I can promise you whatever team Mack puts on the floor will be as intense, hard-nosed and combative as its coach.

As for who will succeed Mack at Xavier, I was surprised to see that Paul Daugherty, the columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, didn’t include Pat Kelsey in his list of potential candidates. Kelsey, another former Xavier assistant who I got to know during his eight years spent at Wake as director of basketball operations and assistant coach, has made Winthrop into a Big South power since taking over the program in 2012-13.

Daugherty may be thinking that the distance from the Big South to the Big East is a bridge too far. I’d love to see Pat get a chance to prove him wrong.

The other coaching news that caught my eye this week was that Ryan Odom, one of the brightest new stars in the college constellation, has signed a new contract at UMBC. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, which makes he wonder if he will be available when Wake finally decides its going to take another coach besides Danny Manning to return the program to ACC relevance and beyond.

We can dream, can’t we?

Hanging with Kyle Petty at Muddy Creek

Upon retirement from the Winston-Salem Journal in August, I had plenty of plans for the next chapter of my life – all of them vague.

Music has always been one of my passions, and I knew much of my time would be devoted to writing songs and performing them around town. But in my eight or so years spent ramroding Open Mics – at the Garage from the summer of 2007 through 2011 and for the past four years at Muddy Creek Cafe – I’d honed a natural ability to stand in front of audiences and run off at the mouth.

So I could see myself not only playing and singing, but serving as a M.C. – although I prefer the word impresario — for various events around town. To that end, I convinced Shana Whitehead and Bill Heath, my good buddies who own and operate Muddy Creek Cafe and Music Hall, to allow me to sharpen my skills by introducing certain performers that I wanted to see perform.

This past Sunday, I had the great pleasure of introducing Kyle Petty and David Childers for their sold-out show at the Muddy Creek Music Hall. I also did the honors for the opening act, Jon Montgomery, whose band Jukebox Rehab is rocking various venues in and around Winston-Salem.

A quick word about the Muddy Creek Music Hall. If you’ve never seen a show there, you’re missing an experience unlike any other I’ve ever known. The Hall was fashioned out of the Bethania Mill, which has been a fixture of the original Moravian settlement since 1899, and the acoustics in the cozy room all surrounded by aged wood are perfect.

And if perfect took a qualifier, they would be really, really perfect – so perfect we say it’s like Church.

Only it’s better than Church because it’s Church with Beer. Enough people agree that Muddy Creek Music Hall was voted by readers of the Winston-Salem Journal as “the best place to see a concert.’’

The concert last Sunday was one I was excited to see.

I had caught a show by David Childers downtown a few years back, when he lived up to his reputation as one of the best singer-songwriters our fair state has produced. I come to find out on Sunday that Childers, a lawyer-turned-troubadour from Mount Holly, had been at the University of North Carolina for the first three of my four years there from 1970 through 1974.

We both spent the 1970-71 school year in James Dorm on South Campus, but it was a big, 10-story dorm and we couldn’t say that we’d met each other.

But the real thrill was getting to meet Kyle Petty, whose people actually brought Petty’s No. 42 Coors Light Silver Bullet Pontiac and parked it out front. Truth is, they parked it in my regular spot, but seeings how it was Kyle Petty, I forgave them.

A guilty pleasure for me has always been NASCAR. I know it’s a 20th century sport rapidly losing its audience in today’s times, and I know most young people of today don’t see the point in fast cars making left turns around paved tracks all afternoon long.

But there was a real romance to the way the sport began, with bootleggers outrunning revenuers up and down the back roads of our hills and hollers. And I came along in a day when the heroes of the sport, guys like Junior Johnson and Fireball Roberts and Kyle’s dad, King Richard, were not all that far removed in terms of lifestyle and social standing from the people who packed the grandstands to see them knock each other around and into the walls.

Besides, in what other sport, I ask you, do the participants have to deal with the element of fire? And thankfully enough advancements have been made in the safety of the sport that the drivers aren’t killing each other off like they were in the early years.

The hook was really in me by the time my brother Tom and I sat in the infield of the Dixie 500 at Atlanta Speedway in 1971 and watched King Richard and Bobby Allison swap paint and rub fenders over the final laps of Petty’s victory – the victory, in fact, that made Petty the first winner of a million dollars in the history of the sport.

I’d never met Kyle, but I knew that my long-time compadre Ed Hardin of the Greensboro News and Record had known him since childhood. Turns out their grandmothers were fast friends, and that they’d participated in many overnight pajama parties with their siblings over at Level Cross while one grandmother or another took care of the kids.

So I knew Kyle played the guitar and wrote his own songs, but I have to say I was not prepared to hear what he had for us last Sunday at Muddy Creek Music Hall. He’s not what some might suspect, a former race car driver posing as a musician. He’s the real thing, a natural performer who knows how to work a crowd.

If you ever get a chance to catch him live, I would highly recommend that you avail yourself of the opportunity.

One great lesson Kyle learned from his daddy was how to treat people. King Richard is the greatest hero in the history of the sport as much for his accessibility and unaffected charm as his 200 victories on the track.

Kyle, I was delighted to come to find, is also regular people. We swapped stories about my time at the Winston-Salem Journal, and told some good ones on Mike Mulhern, a character and a half who covered racing for the paper for 36 years.

I took the opportunity to pass along to Kyle the lyric of a song I wrote about stockcar racin’ called Trackbar Adjustment and a High Groove. So if you ever hear him sing it one day, you’ll know where it came from.

I also told him I was convinced it would be his first No. 1 hit. And it goes a little something like this.

We’re going to take the checkered flag, I can already hear them squall,

How I tagged 18 on his rear bumper and how I sent him straight into the wall.

We’re still just a little squirrelly, but by Gawd we’re on the move,

All I need’s a Trackbar Adjustment and a High Groove.


My great granddaddy ran the liquor from his granddaddy’s still,

You know my family always ran liquor and I reckon we always will,

Granddaddy raced Daytona, he always thought it might have been the first.

He says he lost it coming off AIA, and remembers sliding through the surf.


My daddy raced King Richard, Junior, Bobby, David and Cale,

The only man he said he couldn’t stand was a young ironhead named Dale,

Daddy probably would have won North Wilkesboro if he had taken on a round of wedge

Handsome Harry got his rear bite, you can’t give a man like that the edge.


Once they drop that green flag, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.

I’ve never been light on the throttle, or what you’d call easy on the brakes,

I’m a better driver than my daddy, and my boy’s better still,

He knows I love him, but once we’re racin’ I don’t know his ass from Bill.


We’re going to take the checkered flag, I can already hear them squall,

How I tagged 18 on his rear bumper and how I sent him straight into the wall.

We’re still just a little squirrelly, but by Gawd we’re on the move,

All I need’s a Trackbar Adjustment and a High Groove.

Rating the ACC’s Best Coaches Ever

The first reaction anyone has upon meeting my bride is always the same.

What is an Angel like her doing married to a hound dog like you?

Wily me, I knew how much Tybee loved the ocean, so I promised her a house at the beach to get her to the alter. Going on 36 years later, she’s still waiting on me to make good on that promise.

I was absolutely sure I was going to be able to swing it five years ago when Blair Publishing of Winston-Salem rolled out my The ACC Basketball Book of Fame. Seeings how no one had ever gotten around to establishing a hall of fame of ACC basketball, I decided to do it myself and turn it into a book.

When I first held a copy in my hands, I could hear the waves crashing and see the smile on Tybee’s face.

Alas, the public didn’t buy the concept, and thus didn’t buy the book. Instead of a home by the shore, I barely made enough for a long weekend at Myrtle Beach.

The concept was borne out of my participation, back in 2002, in the “blue-ribbon committee” that celebrated the first 50 seasons by naming the 50 greatest players in the league’s illustrious history. There were 120 members of the “BRC”, and as knowledgeable and well-meaning as we all were, we really botched it in several regards.

Bobby Jones and Walter Davis were both really good players and good guys. I should know, because I covered both during their careers at North Carolina and got to know them.

But to include Jones and Davis on the 50th Anniversary team, and leave out the likes of Bob Verga and Rod Griffin was an egregious oversight.

Jones made second-team All-America as a senior, the only season he made first-team All-ACC. And Davis made second-team All-ACC as a junior and first-team as a senior (barely, with the fifth-most votes), but never made All-America.

Verga, conversely, was first-team All-ACC all three seasons he played for Duke, and made consensus second-team All-America as a junior and consensus first-team as a senior. And Griffin made second-team All-ACC as a sophomore and first-team as a junior and senior at Wake Forest, and was a consensus second-team All-America his final two seasons.

What became obvious upon reflection is our memories are never quite what we thought we remembered. So I took it upon myself to devise a formula that take into account accomplishments accrued during a career – such as All-ACC and All-America voting and additional decorations like conference or national Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, All-Tournament, etc. – and assign a weight to each and add up the numbers.

If a player good enough to be a candidate reached the magic number of 1,000, he was in. If not, he was relegated to the annex, which I termed the Portico of Prominence.

To this day I feel the formula was a useful tool for deciding who belonged in the Hall of Fame and who did not., But it had a flaw, in that it never reconciled the difference of some players being eligible for only three seasons (pre-1975) and some being eligible for four.

So when Tyler Hansbrough accumulated the most points, I had a real problem. I tried to write my away around it by prominently recognizing what everyone should know, that David Thompson was the greatest player to ever grace an ACC basketball court. And the incomparable Thompson did finish second in the voting, despite playing one season less than Hansbrough – who started piling up the honors as a freshman and kept piling them up all four seasons.

But when people saw Thompson listed below Hansbrough, they didn’t bother with the fine print. They, again, didn’t buy the formula, so they didn’t buy the book.

To this day, I’m glad I wrote the book. I loved working with the good folks at Blair, and I’ve always loved history as well as ACC basketball. I remain proud of the 800-1,500 word profiles I wrote on each of my 79 inductees, which were chock full of stories and anecdotes that might have otherwise been forgotten.

And it’s always a kick to walk into a library, or maybe even a book store here or there, and find your contribution on the shelf.

Furthermore, I will argue that the concept of ranking players based on objective contemporaneous measures instead of subjective memory remains valid. So I hauled it out again a couple of weeks ago when I watched Virginia beat North Carolina for the ACC title and put the finishing touches on one of the most dominating seasons in conference history.

It got me to thinking about where Tony Bennett, after only nine seasons, would rank among the greatest coaches in ACC history.

So I pulled out my ACC media guides, a pen and a notepad and went back to work. The first order of business was to establish a formula, and this time I didn’t have to worry about comparing a player eligible for only three seasons with those eligible for four.

What I quickly found is there are relatively few great coaches in the history of ACC. It occurred to me that the great ones, coaches like Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith have been so dominant over the years that they weeded so many others out.

The baseline for the formula is a coach’s record against the other ACC coaches he was hired to beat, in regular-season and ACC Tournament play. And then I added bonus points for additional accomplishment and awards.

What I came up with is as follows. In days to come I will reveal which coaches made the cut and where they ranked. And if you see any obvious flaws in the formula, please speak up before I publish another book and it becomes too late.

1 point – For each ACC win over .500 (including ACC Tournament play).

2 points – Per win in NIT play.

3 points – Per win in NCAA Tournament play.

4 points – ACC Coach of the Year.

5 points – For tying for first-place finish in ACC regular season.

7 points – For finishing first outright in ACC regular season.

7 points – NIT Championship.

7 points – For National Coach of the Year.

10 points – For ACC Championship.

15 points – For appearance in Final Four (without winning title).

20 points – For National Championship.

The cutoff is 100 points, and 15 coaches made the grade.

It’s In the Blood

The ball is tipped and there you are,

You’re running for your life, you’re a shooting star,

And all the years no one knows,

Just how hard you worked, and now it shows,

One Shining Moment, it’s all on the line,

One Shining Moment, there frozen in time.

One Shining Moment, written by David Barrett.

As it turns out, Ryan Odom didn’t batten down every last detail of the game plan utilized to spring what is being widely described as the greatest upset in sports history.

He didn’t teach his UMBC Retrievers the lyric to “One Shining Moment.’’

“I think we kind of all wanted to be in the “One Shining Moment’’ video,’’ forward Joe Sherburne of the Retrievers said. “We were all in the locker room singing the first line because that’s all we know, but I think we’re going to have to learn the rest of the song.’’

The moment that shined brightest for me last night came after Odom and UMBC showed us something that many of us thought we’d never live long enough to see. It came after the No. 16 seed Retrievers finally quit beating up on No. 1 seed Virginia and allowed the shell-shocked Cavaliers to collect their casualties and repair to the safety of their locker room.

Nobody in the world appeared less surprised to see Ryan Odom’s Retrievers run the Wahoos out of Spectrum Center 72-52 than the man who masterminded the rout. Clear-eyed but clearly happy, Odom stood calmly on the court – hand in pocket, collar open – while courtside reporter Tracy Wolfson interviewed first the players before getting to him.

He had just pulled off an upset that is being compared to the Continental Army knocking off the British and he looked so utterly calm and matter of a fact. His demeanor was totally “I’ve got this, this is who I am, this is what I do.’’

Wolfson mentioned how his father, our good friend Dave Odom, had to be going crazy up in the stands.

“Oh I’m sure he’s a proud papa,’’ Ryan said with a slight grin, before foreshadowing his next moments with his father back at the family’s hotel room.

“Then he’ll tell me everything I did wrong,’’ he said, breaking into an honest belly laugh that told us everything we need to know about the love to be found in the Odom family.

If there’s a college director of athletics in America who wasn’t blown away by what Ryan Odom of Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem had done and how he did it, he surely wasn’t watching the Retrievers become the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1.

And he certainly wasn’t tuned into the post-game interview.

There has been some good reporting by some really good friends out of Charlotte this week. I went back and found the piece David Scott wrote for the Charlotte Observer leading into the game, how Ryan Odom grew up in the game and how he got to where he was standing last night.

And the best game story that I’ve seen came from a Virginia point-of-view, written by old-pro Jerry Ratcliffe for the Charlottesville Progress.

As I wrote in my previous post, I’ve never met a sportswriter who didn’t think the world of Dave Odom, so I know that when Scotty and Hootie finally follow me into retirement they’ll cherish the opportunity they had to write these stories about Dave and his son.

The question I went to bed mulling was this: When is the last time you’ve seen a Wake basketball coach not only implement such a brutally effective game plan but have his team execute it to such perfection?

The conclusion I reached is those Odoms sure can coach.

Tony Bennett is a great coach, but he’s also one of the least accessible coaches I’ve ever seen come though the ACC. So I never got a chance to know him.

But I was impressed with how he stood in there and explained the loss to Wolfson, referencing that immortal spech by Theodore Roosevelt “The Man in the Arena.’’ And his point is well-taken. Those of us who watch these spectacles from the stands or our living room easy chairs can pass all the judgments we want to, but ultimately no one knows what players are going through but the players going through it.

The loss didn’t destroy my bracket. My hunch going in was that as dominant as Virginia was during the regular season – and in my mind, the Cavaliers were clearly the best team in the country – I wasn’t sure Bennett had this NCAA Tournament figured out.

I also wondered if the Wahoos’ grind-it-out style of play was conducive to success in mid-to-late March. So I had Virginia getting knocked out by Kentucky in the regional semis.

Here’s why.

The Wahoos, as the ACC found out, were almost impossible to beat this season. But they were also the kind of team that rarely put you away. Teams could play with them, they just couldn’t beat them. To put it in boxing terms, they were body punchers who would destroy your defenses and eventually dominate you on points. You’re bruised and bloodied, but you’re still standing.

It’s just that they lack a knockout punch, the kind we saw Duke land on Iona Friday and North Carolina on Lipscomb yesterday afternoon.

But Bennett remains one of the greatest coaches in ACC history, and my hunch is that he’ll figure it out.

What I already know is that last night was one of my favorite nights ever spent watching a sporting event. To know the Odom family and how magical the experience must have been for them has the goose bumps running up and down these old arms.

As for Ryan Odom’s next challenge of playing Kansas State in Sunday’s second round, I have only one piece of advice.

Teach your players the lyric to the song.

Go Retrievers

For years I was known far and wide as the luckiest beat guy in the ACC, if not all of college basketball.

Read the lead quote in Conor O’Neill’s superb piece on Ryan Odom making the NCAA Tournament as head coach at Maryland-Baltimore County and you’ll understand why.

Covering Wake teams coached by Dave Odom for the Winston-Salem Journal was far more than an honor and a privilege. The Deacons, if you can remember back that far, were a force to be reckoned with in the ACC wars, good enough to win back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996 and make it to post-season play the last 11 of the 12 years Odom called the shots.

But it was the pleasure of covering Dave Odom that made my cohorts so jealous, and understandably so. In all my years on the beat, I never met a sportswriter who didn’t think the world of Dave Odom.

And here’s why. People like getting treated like people. And Dave Odom would not only treat us sportswriters like people, he’d treat us like friends he was happy to see.

There are plenty of coaches in the business who charm the socks off a room while they’re on the podium behind the mic. They’re funny, engaging, light-hearted and self-effacing.

But follow them down the hall and they’re chewing out their media relations director for letting the post-game conference run on too long.

Dave was different in every way. The only problem of covering Dave was that his post-game conferences would run so long that deadlines could become a real problem.

The best games were the day games, when we had plenty of time. We’d all ask Dave questions in the post-game, then we’d follow him across the hall to the locker room and crowd around while he would hold court another 45 minutes amidst the heat baum, tape and left-over trays of sliced oranges and grapes.

Eventually we’d make it back to the work room and start in on our stories, and here would come Dave walking through asking if everybody had what they needed.

And that would be win or lose. What a joy those days were.

I’ve often wondered if the worst mistake Ron Wellman ever made at Wake was to let Dave Odom get away to South Carolina.

Yeah, I remember Butler. I was in Kansas City that day to see the Deacons trailing the Bulldogs 43-10 at half. And I know that Wellman made a great hire in Skip Prosser, another coach who was a great honor, privilege and pleasure to cover.

But Skip, as good as he was, allowed the program to fall to depths that Wake never experienced under Odom, finishing last in the ACC at 3-13 in 2005-06 and following that up with a 5-11 mark the next season. To his credit, he appeared to have the Deacons back on the road to respectability before the bitter tragedy of his death in July 2007.

But Dave Odom fit Wake so well, and Wake was mighty lucky to have him those 12 years.

I’ve told this story before, which won’t stop me from telling it again.

Along about 1996, during the depths of the Jim Caldwell doldrums of Wake football, I covered the Deacons playing at North Carolina. I was lucky enough to run into Bill Dooley, the coach Caldwell replaced in 1993.

I’d known Dooley since my undergraduate days at North Carolina in the early 1970s and always got along with him really well. Like Odom, Dooley always knew how to treat people like people.

But I also knew that Dooley, like most coaches, was a proud individual. And I’ll never forget the smile on his face when I greeted him with “Coach Dooley, you’re looking good. And by the way, back in Winston-Salem you’re looking better and better.’’

Dave Odom, at 75, is looking good these days, as is his winsome wife Lynn. They have a house at Emerald Isle, but they also moved back to Winston. I don’t see them often, but it’s a great pleasure when I do.

Meanwhile, back at Wake, Odom’s 240 victories and two championships over 12 years are looking better and better.

Ryan Odom was 15 when Dave was named head coach at Wake. He was the young kid running around.

Tonight he’s coaching Maryland-Baltimore County in the NCAA Tournament. He’s a damn good coach, good enough to go 21-10 at Lenoir-Rhyne in 2015-16 and win 45 of his first 68 games at UMBC while directing the program back to the NCAA for the first time in 10 years.

His immediate task is daunting, in that no No. 16 seed has ever knocked off a No. 1. So no one expects him to beat Virginia tonight in Charlotte. And for the good of the ACC, the conference I covered all those years, it’s best that he doesn’t.

But knowing the Odom family as well as I do, I can’t help but be a big UMBC fan tonight.

Go Retrievers.

Betwixt and Between Revisited

While the fans of their natural rivals prepare to watch the only games that really matter in modern college basketball, the fans at Wake are left to watch only another player leave their program.

While fans at North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State gather around the TV to cheer on their teams in the NCAA Tournament, those fans still invested in the fortunes of Wake basketball are digesting the news that Donovan Mitchell will transfer and debating what that means.

In itself, it’s no staggering blow. Mitchell showed promise as a sophomore, particularly as a shooter capable of making 43 percent of his shots from 3-point range. But he played only 11.3 minutes a game and averaged 2.9 points and 2.2 rebounds.

If there’s a concern, it should be over the trend that appears to be accelerating coming out of Danny Manning’s fourth season as head coach.

The way I see it, as I wrote back on Feb. 27, there’s two ways of building a competitive college basketball program in today’s times.

A coach can recruit the best players available, and hope to get the most out of them before they bolt for the pros. That’s how Mike Krzyzewski has Duke back in the hunt for a sixth national title, and why I think Kentucky is one of the real sleeper teams in the NCAA Tournament field.

Or a coach can recruit good players he feels will fit his program, keep them around long enough to coach them up, and forge a tough, smart, battle-hardened unit capable of conquering the college basketball world. And that’s how Tony Bennett of Virginia conquered the ACC in 2017-18.

The problem for Manning, as I wrote a few weeks back, is that he has found himself caught betwixt and between.

He has yet to land the kind of players that change the direction of a program the day they arrive. And he keeps losing players who might, at some point along the way, help pull the Deacons out of their customary spot among the lower echelons of the ACC.

By my count, Manning has recruited 14 freshman to Wake. Two, John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou, have left the program for the pros. No one should blame the players or Manning for that. If anything, that’s a compliment to Manning for helping to make Collins and Mitoglou millions.

But that still leaves 12 players. And of that dozen, five (Rondale Watson, Cornelius Hudson, Samuel Japhet-Mathias, Rich Washington and Mitchell) have either on their own volition or not departed for the next step on their basketball journeys.

One, Mitchell Wilbekin, concluded his career at Wake. So the question that looms over the program is, of the remaining half-dozen (Bryant Crawford, Doral Moore, Brandon Childress, Olivier Sarr, Chaundee Brown and Melo Eggleston) how many will be suiting up for the Deacons to start Manning’s fifth season at the helm?

And will those remaining, along with the incoming class of Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, Sharone Wright, Jr. and Jamie Lewis and anybody Manning might be able to land on the open grad-transfer market, be enough to pull the program out of the doldrums it has wallowed in these past eight years?

Dave Odom turned the program around with the influx of such talents as Rodney Rogers and Randolph Childress. So I’ve seen it done at Wake. And maybe we will see it next year from somebody like Hoard or Mucius. We can only hope so.

These have been disappointing times for a once-proud Wake basketball program. Increasingly, I’m seeing that disappointment turn into despair.

And once a program reaches the point of despair, something drastic has to be done if nothing more for the sake of those folks with any hope left to invest.

I stumbled across another indicator that does not bode well for the immediate future of Wake basketball. It reared its ugly head after I got to wondering during Virginia’s march through the ACC just where the Wahoos’ coach, Tony Bennett, would rank among the best coaches in the history of the ACC.

As I’m wont to do when my mind wanders in such directions, I decided to devise a formula and plug in such variables as wins and losses and championships and awards and try to arrive at the conclusion in as objective a manner as possible.

I’m actually pretty excited about the project, which I’m anxious to share with you in days to come.

But one conclusion I reached, is that the list of great coaches in the ACC is actually pretty exclusive. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the great coaches such as Krzyzewski and Dean and Roy and Bubas weed the others out. You have to be a great coach to even stay in the ACC long enough to make your mark.

And when two programs win 38 of the 65 conference championships to be won, that doesn’t leave many for everybody else.

The 15 I would include in my own personal Hall of Fame of ACC coaches are Krzyzewski, Smith, Roy Williams, Vic Bubas, Frank McGuire, Gary Williams, Bennett, Terry Holland, Norm Sloan, Everett Case, Dave Odom, Bobby Cremins, Bones McKinney, Lefty Driesell and Jim Valvano. By my calculations, no one else is close.

And while composing my list, a realization struck me between the eyes. Some of these coaches might have lost early in their tenures at a particular school, but they didn’t lose for long. A great coach might get beat up on for awhile, but a great coach will not allow himself or his program to get beat up on year after year.

And it’s going to take a great coach to again make Wake a contender in the ACC.

Danny Manning, for all I can glean, will enter his fifth season as Wake’s head coach in 2018-19. Except for the brief and partial respite of 2016-17, when Wake finished 10th in the regular season and was eliminated from the First Four of the NCAA Tournament, ACC teams have been beating up on Manning and the Deacons with impunity.

How long will that last?

How long will that be allowed to last?

Mulling the Word “Unacceptable”

Free of charge, I’ll offer up one standard rule of thumb for any college director of athletics whose duties include hiring and firing coaches.

If you hire a coach away from another school that’s not the least bit sorry to see them gone, then you’ve probably made the wrong hire.

That’s why Pitt’s decision to hire Kevin Stallings two years ago after Jamie Dixon bolted for his alma mater of TCU never made a lick of sense to me.

I’m not all that up on Vanderbilt sports, but I did have the distinct impression that, outside of Stallings’ immediate family, there weren’t more than a half-dozen Commodore fans shedding any tears when Pitt poached him away. If I’m reading that wrong, I invite any Vandy folks to set me straight.

Stallings was at Vandy for 17 seasons, during which time he won 332 and lost 201. But it was his 138-142 mark against the SEC teams he was hired to compete against that eased any pain over his departure from Music City, USA.

Yeah, I know he made the NCAA Tournament seven times in those 17 seasons, but only once over his final four. He was also 56 years old and had, to my mind, shown pretty much everything he could do.

His highly unprepossessing two-year run at Pitt, again, to my mind, confirmed my suspicions. And today, Heather Lyke, the director of athletics at Pitt, confirmed that Stallings’ 24-41 record (4-32 against ACC competition) at the convergence of the Alleghany, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers was unacceptable.

It was, from all reports, unacceptable enough that Lyke and Pitt remain on the hook for a $10 million buyout owned to Stallings.

Unacceptable, to me, has always been a confusing word. Over my 25 years covering Wake athletics, I heard it used countless times to describe the performance of a team, player or coach.

I’ve heard it with increasing frequency over the past eight seasons of Deacon basketball.

And yet if the director of athletics and those he leans upon don’t do what is needed to change the course of events, aren’t they accepting just what has been deemed unacceptable?

Danny Manning, in his four years as head coach at Wake Forest, is 54-72 overall and 20-52 in ACC play. That’s an improvement over the records (51-76 and 17-51) his predecessor Jeff Bzdelik rang up over four years, only if you want to call it that.

Is a .278 winning percentage over four season against ACC competition acceptable at Wake? And if so, who is it acceptable to?

Over the next month or so we’ll all find out, and we’ll find out together.

Wes, As Always, Did His Father Proud

The Atlantic Coast Conference, back before it became a world-renown mega-brand spanning from Boston to Miami, really used to be a family.

And it was a close family at that.

What made it so was not so much the players and coaches, who would come and go, but all those friendly faces you’d see at games year after year. It was the conference officials like Skeeter Francis and Brian Morrison, the sportswriters, the sportscasters, the stat crews, the sports information directors and their support staff and, yes, even the referees that you looked forward to passing time with once you arrrived at the arena.

Shared experiences pull people together and together we shared so many times good and bad.

Two members of that family I’ve been most proud to know are the Durhams, father Woody and son Wes. I even had the great pleasure of meeting Wes’ son, Will, at a Wake game last season.

I told Will what a legend his grandfather was, but, of course, he already knew.

Woody was starting out that legendary run as the Voice of the Tar Heels right when I came on the scene, in the early 1970s. We were on opposite sides of the great cultural divide of the times, but Woody could not have been nicer to this bearded and befuddled, long-haired Chapel Hill hippie.

We never vacationed together, or anything like that, but we did keep up. Woody was a sunny person, always fun to be around.

And we all saw Wes come along, launching a broadcasting career first in radio and eventually moving to television. We could see he had the same qualities as his father, in that he always gave a whit and he always had a clue. Wes, like his father, is good at what he does because it means so much to him to be good.

He never knew any other way.

And he was ever bit the decent, sunny person as his father.

The ACC family, what there is left of it, is in mourning this week. As you’ve surely heard by now, Woody Durham passed away Tuesday night at age 76, after a three-year battle with a rare brain disorder called primary progressive aphasia.

And you’ve probably also heard that Wes made the call to stay at the ACC Tournament and call last night’s games between Notre Dame and Virginia Tech followed by North Carolina and Syracuse. You might have even seen the hug Coach Roy Williams of the Tar Heels gave him at courtside before tipoff of the nightcap.

Wes didn’t make the call to stay in Brooklyn without consultation. His mother, Jean, told her son that was where he belonged.

And a Mom always knows best.

I’m glad Wes is in Brooklyn calling the ACC Tournament. If Woody still had a say, I’m convinced he would be glad as well. If nothing else, he needed to be there to accept the ACC’s Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award on behalf of his father.

Wes said he only wanted to make his father proud.

On that point, I don’t believe he ever had to worry.

Even sitting 550 miles south in Winston-Salem, a part of my heart is with Wes Durham in Brooklyn. And by saying that, I know I’m speaking for so many members of the ACC family that used to be.