Wake Fans Deserve Better

The next best thing to winning, as I’ve always said, is to lose with a good excuse.

Ron Wellman should come up with a better excuse for the sorry state of the Wake basketball program than the one he gave Conor O’Neill for the piece now running in the Winston-Salem Journal.

After eight years, that’s the best he could do? That Wake is the 14th seed at the ACC Tournament because two players left for the pros before graduation? That the team fights hard but just can’t get over hump, perhaps for reasons more mental than physical?

People there tell me there were at least 10,000 people in Joel Coliseum on a sunny February Saturday afternoon to see a Wake team going nowhere play Notre Dame. To me, that’s impressive. It also tells me that those fans who have stuck with Wake through the wreckage of a once-proud program deserve better than they’re getting from those responsible.

I understand that there’s only so much Wellman can say to Conor, particularly at this time, with the year-end review coming up after the ACC Tournament. But the fans have been waiting for answers for eight years now, with nothing more to show for their patience than a 10th-place finish in the ACC last season followed by a flameout to Kansas State in the First Four in Dayton.

Some payoff.

Sure coach Danny Manning got a bad break when John Collins turned to the NBA after his sophomore season and Dinos Mitoglou bolted for his homeland of Greece after his junior campaign. The timing of Mitoglou’s departure – in late summer – made his loss more of a blow.

But it’s no news flash to say that teams in the ACC lose players to the pros. Last spring, lest we forget, 12 ACC players with eligibility remaining left for the pros. Six were drafted before Collins went to Atlanta as the 19th pick.

Other teams to lose players with eligibility remaining were Duke, Florida State, N.C. State, Louisville, North Carolina and Syracuse. Duke, in fact, lost four, and Florida State and North Carolina two each.

None of those teams are 4-14 in conference play and 11-19 overall. All will enter the ACC Tournament starting tomorrow with something remaining to play for instead of having to win it all to extend the season past the next loss.

To win in the ACC, a program all but has to have players good enough to be drafted with eligibility remaining. So if your excuse for losing is that a player left early, you should be running or coaching a program in the Atlantic 10, or maybe the Sun Belt Conference.

And again, losing Mitoglou in late July was a bad break. But let’s remember who Dinos Mitoglou is, or was. He averaged 8.9 points and 6.1 rebounds and was, by most assessments, a liability on defense. We’re not talking Darius Songaila here, and we’re certainly not talking Al-Farouq Aminu.

As I’ve mentioned, Mike Brey of Notre Dame got a bad break when Bonzie Colson missed almost all of the ACC regular season with a broken foot. And Brad Brownell of Clemson got a bad break when Donte Granthan, a senior forward with 95 games of experience, was lost for the last month and a half with a torn knee ligament.

The injury to Coleman, as well as the one to Matt Farrell that cost him five games, did cause Notre Dame to have a down season. A down season at Notre Dame is 18-13 overall, 8-10 in the ACC and a 10th seed to the ACC Tournament.

If Wake were 18-13 and 8-10 and seeded 10th, I wouldn’t be wasting your time writing what I’m writing now.

As I’ve written before, the NCAA allows all Division I programs 13 scholarships. Brey kept his team in the hunt for post-season play by reaching down his bench to find the likes of Martinas Geben, Elijah Burns, John Mooney and Nikola Djogo.

You play with who you have and Manning, in his four years as head coach, hasn’t stockpiled enough good players to overcome the loss of two others. That’s on him, and no one else.

Manning, I have to think, will be the head basketball coach at Wake next season. Wellman hired him, and Wellman is a proud man. He’s also the proud man who subjected Wake fans to four years of Jeff Bzdelik. He’s going to give Manning every chance to prove that he hasn’t whiffed twice in a row.

But I don’t see how anybody could say that Manning has done enough to deserve that fifth year. And if next season is not make-or-break, then Ron Wellman will continue doing an egregious disservice to those still invested in the fortunes of Wake basketball.

16 thoughts on “Wake Fans Deserve Better

  1. You speak the truth, Dan. Manning has had more than enough time. There’s no excuse for what has happened to Wake Forest basketball over the past 8 years. The blame rests with Ron Wellman. He just can’t admit he’s made two huge hiring mistakes. After making the 150 mile round trip to the Joel for many years, these last 8 years have taken their toll on me. I missed more games this year than I missed in total in the previous 14 years. I don’t know if I will be back next season. It’s stopped being fun to watch them. I’ve been a fan for well over 50 years and am a 1973 graduate. It’s just sad to see what has happened. Shame on the people who could make this right.

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    1. It takes a loyal fan to weather what you’ve had to these past eight years Steve. Shouldn’t be that hard to pull for your favorite team. There has to be at some point some kind of return on your investment of money, time and interest. Those running the program owe you that.

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  2. I know Wellman won’t do it, but Dave Odom, Ernie Nestor and Jerry Wainwright could collectively go find a good coach for Wake. Given their backgrounds at Wake, they know what it takes to win there.

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    1. You just named three of my favorite people in basketball, James, and all of them know the game. They’ve all spent a life coaching it. Any of them would make Wake a better team the day they joined the staff, but only if Manning would listen to them.

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  3. Hi Country! Hope you are enjoying retirement. Would surmise you stay as busy in retirement as when you were gainfully employed. Missed corresponding with you when the Journal went to Facebook logins…Found this site luckily and signed in. Ever since the Bz fiasco have not been a passionate follower of Deacon Basketball. At least Clawson is on the right path. Would be good for everyone if Wellman would RETIRE! Anyway, hope you recognize my email in your blog. Best Wishes, Tom from S.C. and Ashe County!

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    1. Hey Tom. Retirement has been great, especially since my daughter Rebecca helped get my blog launched. I’ve loved raising hell, and I’m glad you found me. Welcome aboard. I’m going to be blogging the ACC Tournament from the comfort of my hacienda, and would love to hear from you. Would be happy to have you be a regular contributor. And if you’re ever in town on a Thursday night, make sure you make it out to Muddy Creek Cafe for our Open Mic and let me know you’re around. Be great to meet you.

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  4. Hi Dan. I found this from the Old Gold board and I must say, I’ve missed your writing. I hope you are enjoying retirement but I am also glad you haven’t given up your writing about Wake basketball.
    Dan I as a non-alum of Wake and just a “townie”, I want to say you just hit the nail on the head. What bothers me about the last 8 years is when I see other programs who hire coaches and turn their programs around in a reasonable amount of time. I feel bad for Manning because I just don’t think he’s the guy for the job and I see him on the chopping block next year. My fear is that Wellman will screw up the next hire as well. Maybe he will retire along with Manning.
    If Wake ever fields another decent team with a chance to make a run, the roof of the Joel just might be blown off from excitement. We (fans) have had to sit through this for far too long and many of us are left wondering how much longer. Dan I work with Carolina, Duke, and some State fans, and it’s just plain embarrassing to discuss basketball. I can talk about the recent success of football, soccer, or even baseball but the one thing that matters here in North Carolina is college basketball.
    The most dangerous thing in sports fandom in my opinion is apathy. I can tell you that there are quite a few fans who are becoming apathetic and that breaks my heart because this program deserves to be much better.
    Thanks again for continuing to write, your words and knowledge of the sport are appreciated from this fan. Go Deacs.

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    1. So happy you found me Cliff. I’ve read the Wake boards since the days of Kent Newsome (a good guy) and Rancho Denado. Somebody there did me a big-time solid by posting my link. Greatly appreciated. Traffic, shall we say, has picked up and I’m pulled in good folks like you. I could not agree more with what you’re saying. Danny is a solid citizen with an impressive story. Would love to see him succeed, and I know you and most of the Wake folks would as well. But four years later the job is not getting done. I’ve written about how tough it must be for Wake fans living among friends and co-workers from State, Carolina and Duke who are really getting fired up for March Madness and following their teams through thick and thin. Wellman and Wake has asked for your patience long enough. It’s time for the roof to be lifted off Joel Coliseum again. Thanks for reading, and I love hearing from you.

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  5. Dan my Son and I was at the State game and I made a decision Wake Forest will not get another penny from me or my company until something is done. Welman clearly has not the experience or knowledge to obtain a coach that Wake needs, I mean while Clearly the two previous coach are as different as day and night, they both have very similar mannerisms and coaching styles, Welman hired the same type coach, why are we surprised that the results are the same.

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  6. Dan, my Dad coached Bones McKinney when both were stationed at Ft. Bragg during WWII. I really enjoy your articles.

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