The Value of Experience

The Wake basketball program is crying out loud for experience on the coaching staff.

Long before today’s altogether ignominious 64-56 loss at Georgia Tech, that cry became a primal scream.

For awhile there I thought that Tech was going to out-Wake Wake and lose a game that should never be lost. But in the end, the Deacons proved once again that no team around is more adept at tripping over their own shoelaces with victory in its grasp than Danny Manning’s fourth edition.

It’s what the Deacons do.

To do so today, the Deacons had to turn the ball over 22 times, force one ill-considered shot after another and act like they’ve never even been introduced to Doral Moore, the 7-1 center averaging a double double in conference play who got all of five second-half touches in the paint off passes from teammates.

One would think that with Ben Lammers, Tech’s senior center, saddled throughout the game by foul trouble, then the strategy would be a steady stream of passes to Moore in the post. Whoever might think that hasn’t been watching Wake basketball.

One would also think that if Ron Wellman and the other powers that be at Wake are going to climb out on a limb far enough to hire a head coach with all of two years of head coaching experience, they would at least see to it that the newbie had an experienced old hand at his side on the bench.

One would think they would see to it that the staff had a guy like Ernie Nestor, whose 41 years spent on a college bench included two stints at Wake, and 11 seasons as a head coach at George Mason and Elon.

Or maybe a guy like Trent Johnson at Louisville, whose 31 years of college coaching experience (20 spent as a head coach at Nevada, Stanford, LSU and TCU) has helped guide David Padgett through his first season at the helm.

Or maybe, just maybe, like the guy sitting courtside today watching Wake lose for the 14th time in 18 conference games and wrestle the 14th seed in the ACC Tournament from the Jackets.

I was lucky enough in my time as Wake beat reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal to get to know Dave Odom well enough to call him a good friend. So I was glad to find him calling the game today alongside Bob Rathbun, one of the friendliest play-by-play announcers to ever find his way to Joel Coliseum.

All of which got me to thinking. Could the answer to at least one of Wake’s many problems be so close at hand?

Randolph Childress remains the all-time favorite athlete I covered at Wake, but for all his drive and will, he still has only five years of experience as a college basketball coach. He sits beside Steve Woodberry, who has 12 years of coaching experience in college, who sits beside Jamill Jones, who has five years of coaching experience in college.

Added to the 11 years Manning has spent coaching college basketball, Wake has a grand total of 33 years of college coaching experience on the staff.

Kevin Keatts, whose staff at N.C. State also has a total of 33 years, has proven that experience doesn’t have to be essential. But a closer look at the Pack staff reveals James Johnson, a veteran of 18 seasons on a college bench who spent two of those seasons as head coach at Virginia Tech.

I know Odom well enough to know he loves Wake. So I know he had to be biting his tongue hard watching today’s travesty, though he did mention repeatedly how Wake should be getting the ball inside to the big guy and how that missed layup by Brandon Childress going one-on-five with 12 seconds remaining was probably not the right shot to take.

My favorite comment from the day, the one that had me laughing out loud, came when Wake committed one of its 22 turnovers.

“Those turnovers would be driving me absolutely crazy,’’ Odom remarked.

A smart man can learn a lot from a lifetime of coaching basketball, and no one I know knows more basketball than Dave Odom. He’s also pretty good at coaching the game, as his 240-132 record over his 12 seasons at Wake would attest.

What I don’t know is whether Odom would consider a spot on the Wake staff, nor whether his wife and sweetheart Lynn would hear of it. The two have a wonderful life, with one home in a tony neighborhood of Winston-Salem and another at Emerald Isle. And a deal-breaker could well be Odom having to relinquish the all-time dream job as chairman in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational Basketball Tournament.

Besides, Odom, at age 75, doesn’t need Wake. But that’s not the point. Rather Wake needs Dave Odom, or someone like him, and it needs them badly.

We all saw that again today and we’ll see it again Tuesday in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

But say Ron Wellman takes my sage advice and talks Dave Odom into joining the Wake coaching staff as a bench coach with no recruiting responsibilities. Say Odom becomes for Manning what Ernie Nestor was for him – a seasoned sounding board to help him keep up with all that has to be kept up with once the ball is tossed into the air and play begins.

Even then, that would leave the biggest question of all, given the lack of interplay one sees these days on the Deacons’ bench.

If Danny Manning had a Dave Odom on his staff, would he even listen to him?

5 thoughts on “The Value of Experience

  1. Amen Dan,… from an ol’ Deacon from the mountains ( Swain County ) , WFU class of 1975. What a really disappointing contrast to the days of Carl Tacy, Dave Odom, and Skip Prosser. I really look forward to each article you post. Hopefully Wake basketball will somehow return to a position of deserved competitiveness and respect while I am still around to see it. Thanks for your insights.


  2. I graduated from Wake in 91 and have watched every televised or streaming game since them. I have lived and died Wake Forest basketball. My daughter was fortunate enough to be accepted to Ga Tech in engineering and I found myself for the first time since I graduated, pulling for Doral Moore to have a monster game but hoping that Wake lost. The current state of affairs is an embarrassment and it is not likely to get better next year regardless of the recruiting class. A change needs to be made as soon as possible. John Collins even eluded to it during his interview. Four years is enough to know what you have and Wake does not have to what it needs or deserves. .


  3. One important thing to consider, Manning is not a young man, and if he didn’t learn how to coach over his nine seasons sitting next to Bill Self, one of the modern game’s best, he’s not going to learn now. As the old saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, especially if he’s hard of hearing, literally or figuratively.


  4. I unequivocally endorse your thoughts about Dave Odom and the wisdom he would bring to the Wake Forest bench. In a perfect world, Coach Odom would still be the head man for the Deacs.


  5. hey your old nemesis Tony Collins, I was just made aware of your new gig, awesome article and glad that someone has the moxie to actually tell it like it is.


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