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.

8 thoughts on “Cracks in Wake’s Foundation

  1. I don’t blame any player for leaving the mess that Ron Wellman and Danny “Mannequin” have created. The rapid departures of so many players eerily reminds me of the “Buzzkill” era….


      1. Ben- I’m sorry if my comment offended. No one would like to see Danny succeed anymore than I, but numbers don’t lie. He has not been successful in 4 years of trying to turn this program around and I don’t see any evidence that this will change in the future. In my opinion and it’s only an opinion, he is over his head coaching at the ACC level.


  2. It’s a stretch to compare building a foundation in today’s college basketball environment to watch Coach K and Dean Smith did in the early 1960s. Players then did not have the opportunities to play overseas like they do today, nor the opportunities with the NBA and leaving college early nor the opportunities to transfer. I used to think four years five on the outside for a coach to build a foundation and be successful. Now in today’s environment I think 6 maybe even 7 might be needed depending on how circumstances like a John Collins early development can rock a program. European ball made an impact with Dinos and now we see some that will have an impact. I think a fair measuring stick can be at the end of the fifth year and I lean toward giving him 6 years given the success he’s had with recruiting and players upward movement. This happens to a lot of programs. Look at NC State with Yurtseven. He’s left the NC State program after a very successful year to be a transfer or NBA. But even with his numbers and playing time and his stock Rising with the NBA he was dissatisfied. I’m sure Keatts thought he was on solid ground with Yurtseven but in today’s environment you have to anticipate a lot of turnover on your roster.


    1. Dan kinda loses it when he brings up Collins and Mitoglou. Dan is going to have to explain how two guys signing big contracts is a negative on Danny.

      Pretty sure Crawford and Moore come back. Washington was never going to get PT here, so his transfer makes sense.

      The Mitchell and Wood subtractions are questionable, but shit happens. If Wake wins next year, no one is going to care those departures took place. If Wake doesn’t, Manning is gone. It really is that simple. Crying about those two departures is crying over spilled milk at this point. Mitchell was a marginal player, while Woods a solid option on offense.


  3. Why could they not defend? Awful!!!!! Defending is understanding a few principles, heart and effort of which I saw very little of last year. As much as I like and respect the person, unfortunately he and his staff are not making progress. Hope I see signs of progress next year.


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