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.

 

Another Book Destined to Gather Dust

Syracuse, before tonight, had never won an ACC Tournament game in three tries.

Which tells us only that it took the Orange that long to play Wake in the ACC Tournament.

Let the record show that at around 9:09 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the Deacons closed the book on another basketball season and put it on the shelf. Historians may find the need to pull it down from time to time for one reference or another, but I imagine most fans reading this would probably just as soon forget it’s there.

What would, after all, be worth remembering? Certainly not the 11-20 overall record, or the 4-15 mark against fellow ACC schools.

Oh yeah, my bad. Bryant Crawford did get an honorable mention for All-ACC.

And what can we say about the way it ended — with a 73-64 loss – that hasn’t been said in so many of the previous setbacks?

Yes, the Orange did need the win badly for its NCAA Tournament hopes, after losing four of its final six down the stretch of the regular season to fall to 19-12 and 8-10.

And yes the Orange were playing in Brooklyn in front of what was described as a generous and adoring home-state crowd.

But again, what Syracuse had going for it most of all was the opportunity to play Wake. Teams have to relish that opportunity, just as they did for all four seasons Jeff Bzdelik was head coach and now for three of the four with Danny Manning at the helm.

You know that if you play Wake, at some point or another Wake is prone to stop playing.

The Deacons kept playing offense tonight, scoring on seven straight possessions to pull to 62-56 with 1:24 remaining.

Problem is, they had long since checked out on defense. Syracuse, one of the most offensively challenged teams in the ACC, scored on its final eight possessions to keep the Deacons at arms’ length.

For the half, the Orange scored on 21 of the 33 times they crossed half-court with the basketball, shooting 67 percent (12-for-18) over the final 20 minutes.

But none of the last eight Wake teams have been adept at keeping the opponent from scoring, so why should this one be any different?

Opponents also have the luxury of knowing they don’t have to worry about stopping Doral Moore, the 7-1 center. No one does that better than Moore’s teammates.

Moore, whose 69 percent field-goal accuracy would lead the league if he had enough attempts, got five shots from the floor tonight. He appears to have hit the wall physically, to the point he logged only 23 minutes tonight. But in the final game of his junior season, Doral Moore contributed 7 points and 4 rebounds.

By my count, he touched the ball once in the second half off a pass from a teammate – which resulted in a dunk that pulled Wake to 60-48.

To be the force he should be as a senior, he’s going to have to get in better shape and he’s going to have to get better teammates more willing to share the basketball.

My good friend Wes Durham, along with color analyst Cory Alexander, made the case for Danny Manning’s fifth year with 4 ½ minutes remaining. And from everything I know, it appears Manning will get that fifth year, despite his 52-72 overall record and 21-56 mark against those ACC teams he was hired to compete against.

Maybe the rosy scenario they painted will be realized. Maybe the Deacons of 2018-19 will be the Clemson of 2017-18, the team of veterans who got tired enough of losing that they found a way to win. Maybe all three scholarship juniors, Moore, Crawford and Keyshawn Woods (1-for-9 from the floor tonight) will return. Maybe sophomores Brandon Childress and Donovan Mitchell and freshmen Chaundee Brown and Olivier Sarr will show vast improvement.

Maybe the program will get a major influx of talent from the incoming class of Jaylen Hoard, Isaiah Mucius, Sharone Wright and Jamie Lewis.

Wake fans can always wish and hope. They certainly have enough practice.

So the book has been closed on Manning’s fourth season, the one that began with consecutive losses to Georgia Southern, Liberty and Drake and ended with seven losses in the final nine games. Another season ended at the ACC Tournament before the other three ACC teams from North Carolina even arrived.

It’s a book that’s destined to gather dust, just like the ones next to it on the shelf.

But did I mention that Bryant Crawford got an honorable mention for All-ACC?

Brey Lives to Play Another Day

Mike Brey is a really good guy, a throwback to a time when college basketball coaches and those who covered their teams cared as much for each other as circumstances would allow.

I can’t say that I ever got to know him well, but many of my sportswriting compadres in North Carolina did when Brey was Mike Krzyzewski’s assistant at Duke from 1987-1995.

Brey somewhere along the way learned the same lesson as Jim Grobe. Be a decent person and treat everybody well and nobody will ever have anything bad to say about you.

Nobody I know who covered Duke during those days has anything bad to say about Mike Brey. And I loved hearing the story recently how Bill Cole, with whom I worked for going on 40 years at the Winston-Salem Journal, caught up with Brey when Notre Dame visited North Carolina a couple of weeks back.

Cole and Barry Jacobs, another long-time pal who knew Brey well from his days at Duke, drifted down to the Notre Dame locker room after the game. And when Brey emerged, the three of them stood around and talked like old friends.

Brey wanted to know how everybody back along Tobacco Road was doing, and at no time seemed in a hurry to take off.

Mike Brey is a dying breed in this day when most interactions a sportswriter has with coaches are at the infernal “availabilities.’’ By the time I retired in August, I was long-past done with “availabilities.’’

I find myself these days rooting for the coaches who I know to be good guys, which is why I had so much invested in today’s under-card game between Brey’s Irish and hapless Pitt. So I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when Notre Dame pulled out an horrendous unsightly 67-64 victory in today’s first round of the ACC Tournament.

Bonzie Colson is also one of my favorite ACC players, which is all the more reason I regretted my stoopid mistake of yesterday’s blog by calling him Bonzie Coleman. Stoopid me. But going into the tournament, I thought it would be a great story if Colson’s return would help lift the Irish into the NCAA Tournament.

Maybe the Irish still have to beat Virginia Tech tomorrow night to get the bid. I don’t know. Nobody knows, and nobody will until Sunday’s Selection Show, if then.

I do know Colson and the Irish face a tall order against Virginia Tech, and I have to wonder how much Colson, after missing 15 games with a broken foot, will have left in his legs. The Hokies won’t play with the same snail’s pace as the Panthers, so there’s a chance they’ll run Notre Dame out of The Barkley Center.

But I’d love to see the Irish make the Dance, for reasons other than it should give the ACC one more representative.

Tim Brando and Mike Gminski were discussing the future of Pitt coach Kevin Stallings, who I never got to know. But I’ll never forget my first impressions of the man, dating to March 14, 2000. It was Stallings’ first season as head coach at Vanderbilt, and Dave Odom’s Wake Forest squad was sent to Nashville to play the Commodores in the first round of the NIT.

When we hit Nashville, the papers were full of the Commodores griping how they felt they should have been invited to the NCAA Tournament, and how they were screwed to be relegated to the NIT. It had to make me wonder about their state of mind going against a suddenly-hot Wake team that had won three of its last four games.

Well Vanderbilt gave the Deacons a real game in the first half. But once Wake got a leg up early in the second half, the Commodores were done.

What I saw that game was a team and a coach who gave up on each other. The benches at that old barn known as Memorial Coliseum were along the base line and I’ll never forget Stallings standing there, arms folded, a disgusted look on his face, steadfastly refusing to call to.

The season was over in his mind and he was not about to prolong it any further.

Given Stallings’ 35-37 record in his final four seasons at Vanderbilt, I was stunned to see him hired by Pitt after Jamie Dixon flew the coop back to his alma mater of TCU. And Stallings’ 4-32 record against the ACC hasn’t exactly made me rethink my position.

During halftime, I checked out the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to find what I expected. Stallings’ future at Pitt is a ripe topic of discussion in the Steel City. Heather Lyke, Pitt’s director of athletics, addressed it recently on a local radio show.

A potential snag is Stallings’ buyout, which, according to reports I’ve seen, is in the neighborhood of $10 million.

Stallings, after today’s loss, was asked whether he felt he had to sell the powers that be at Pitt on his vision for the program to get a third season as head coach.

“I doubt it,’’ Stallings responded. “And I think they know what my vision is. I think that’s already been communicated. I doubt if that is really something that plays into it.’’

What we do know is that Stallings is done for the season and Brey has lived to play another day. Good things happen to good people.

New Day Calls for New Way

If only I could remember what I felt like waking up on Saturday, March 9, 1974 but I can’t. Way too long ago.

I do know I was a senior in college and I know I had to be excited out of my 21-year-old mind. N.C. State, en route to its first national title, was playing Maryland that night in the finals of the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, and, by golly, I was going.

Not only was I going, I was set to sit courtside to watch such Titans as David Thompson, Tommy Burleson and Monte Towe for State and Tom McMillen, John Lucas and Len Elmore for Maryland go at it with it all on the line.

It wasn’t really fair that I was going and sitting courtside. But the ingenuously named Chapel Hill Newspaper, the paper I was working for, had only two full-time writers, Ladd Baucom and Mark Whicker. And it so happens that while the CHN was an afternoon paper five afternoons a week, our Sunday edition came out in the morning.

And as such, somebody who knew far more than me had to stay behind and edit the copy, write the headlines and probably paste the type up on the dummies. Whicker, who had attended the first two days, knew how to do it. I didn’t.

The shame of it all is that Mark — the guy whose seat I took – is one of the best sportswriters I’ve ever known, a fast friend from Reidsville who went on to make a real name for himself with the Winston-Salem Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Orange County Register and his current gig with the LA Daily News/LA News Group.

But if Mark couldn’t be there, then somebody had to.

So it just so happens that the first game I ever saw at the ACC Tournament turned out to be what is universally considered the greatest game in ACC history. N.C. State was ranked No. 1 in the country, having won 32 straight conference games. Maryland was ranked No. 5.

But only one would advance to the NCAA Tournament in a day that only one team from a conference received a bid. The Pack of those days always figured out a way to win, as they did that night by outlasting the Terps 103-100 in overtime.

For the next 42 years I attended the ACC Tournament hoping to see something that good again. I followed My Elusive Dream, as the song goes, from Greensboro to Landover back to Greensboro back to Landover to Atlanta back to Greensboro back to Atlanta back to Greensboro back to Landover back to Greensboro back to Atlanta to Charlotte back to Greensboro back to Charlotte back to Atlanta back to Charlotte back to Greensboro to Washington back to Greensboro to, of all places, Tampa back to Charlotte back to Atlanta back to Greensboro back to Atlanta back to Greensboro and back to Washington.

I saw some unforgettable games while chasing that dream, the most memorable to me being Randolph Childress’ legendary performance while leading Wake past arch-rival North Carolina in 1995 to the Deacons’ first conference title in 33 years.

But for all the miles I traveled and all the thousands, if not millions, of words I wrote, I never saw a game to match my first. And by the time the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1975 to include more than one team from a conference I realized I probably never would.

When the tournament moved to Brooklyn last season, I had been chasing that dream long enough. Old, worn down and still recovering from shoulder surgery, I passed.

What I realized while missing my first tournament since 1974 was that I really didn’t miss it all that much. Yeah I missed hanging out with so many good friends, particularly the all-night hell-raising sessions in the beer-drenched hospitality rooms. I missed the excitement of championship Saturday night or Sunday and I missed the dove bars and free sodas and popcorn.

But today it’s just different. I promised myself when I retired I would not be an old curmudgeon grousing about how nothing today is as good as it was back in “my time,’’ but there are some days it’s harder to keep that promise than others.

Today I’m happy to be watching from the comfort of my hacienda, drinking my own adult beverages and texting with friends all around the country – some of them on site in Brooklyn.

Here’s hoping you’ll hang out at least part of the week with me, and lend me your thoughts on the proceedings. I did this last year while still with the Winston-Salem Journal, and had a blast.

I’ll be paying particular attention, of course, to tonight’s game between Wake and Syracuse. I’ll be curious if the Deacons make it to Brooklyn in spirit as well as body, but they look for all the world like a team that packed it in weeks ago.

Predictions were never my thing as a working sportswriter (I know, I know, contradiction of terms), but I was coerced into coming up with one before the 2012. That’s the year I picked Florida State and even wrote a song about it that I posted on my original blog My Take on Wake.

The Seminoles, sure enough, roared to their first title and when word of my prediction made its way to the FSU fan base, I swear for a week there I could have been elected mayor of Tallahassee. Of course that would have require relocating to Tallahassee.

So what the hell? I might as well dip my quill once again in the ink of prognostication just for fun. And what fun is it to pick Virginia or Duke, the two favorites? Personally I’m picking State to knock off Clemson and then lose to Virginia in one side of the bracket and Miami upending Duke in the other.

And just for smiles, I’m picking Miami to win it all with Chris Lykes, the 5-7 freshman pepper pot, being named Most Outstanding Player.

In case you’re wondering, I expect Wake to be headed home tomorrow after losing to the Cuse tonight.

But that’s just my two-cents worth and I’d love to hear yours.

Let’s do this thing. Tip off in 10 minutes.

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.