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?

A Hard Day’s Night: The Proper Story

It was April 14, 1964, when the final touches were being put on the first movie starring the Beatles.

United Artist even had a title, A Hard Day’s Night, one of many malaprops from the twisted, if unwitting wit of drummer Ringo Starr. The director, Richard Lester, had been driving the boys hard over the whirlwind seven weeks spent filming in and around London, and he needed to get the low-budget production in the can.

But one problem remained, a big one. The movie needed a theme song.

I’ve often thought how cool it would have been to have met John Lennon, one of my many heroes. But I also know that on that one particular date, April 14, 1964, I wouldn’t have traded places with Walter Shenson to have done so.

For it was left to Shenson, the producer of A Hard Day’s Night, to bring up to Lennon that a theme song would be required. It needed to be an upbeat tune, and it was needed soon – as in yesterday.

Those who know the story of the Beatles know that Lennon, at least before he met Yoko, was one of the angriest humans to ever walk the planet. I’m no psychologist, but I would hazard to guess that had something to with abandonment issues.

For as the story goes, his ne’er-do-well father Freddie sailed off to sea, his free-spirited mother Julia dumped him on his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George and his best friend Stu Sutcliffe died in Hamburg from an aneurism or some other nerve disorder. And oh yeah, Julia died as well, after getting hit by a car on a Liverpool street.

There was a darkest of dark side to Lennon, which came out in full fury during a party celebrating Paul McCartney’s 21st birthday. That was the night Bob Wooler, a regular on the Liverpool hip scene, chided Lennon for a holiday trip he had made to Spain with manager Brian Epstein.

The insinuation was that Lennon, like Epstein, was gay.

Flying into Wooler, Lennon started pounding him with his fists and kept pounding until he was pulled off and held down long enough to regain his senses.

This was the same John Lennon who, 10 months later, Shenson had to approach to request – no, make that require – that a song be written posthaste.

The scene in Bob Spitz’ biography, titled appropriately enough, The Beatles, is totally predicable. It describes a Lennon all put upon, muttering and brooding and chain-smoking while riding in the car from the studio back into London.

Can’t you just see him?

I can.

So next morning when Shenson was told Lennon wanted to see him in the Beatles dressing room, we can all imagine how apprehensive he must have been. Only 10 hours had elapsed, so Shenson probably expected nothing more than a progress report.

“He and Paul were standing there, with their guitars slung over their shoulders,’’ Shenson recalled. “John fiddles with a matchbook cover on which were scrawled the lyrics to a song – A Hard Day’s Night – which they sang and played to perfection.’’

Lennon, still seething, fixed Shenson with his glare.

“OK, that’s it right?,’’ Lennon demanded.

“Right,’’ Shenson replied.

“Good,’’ Lennon practically spat, “Now don’t bother us about songs anymore.’’

A Hard Day’s Night is one of my favorite movies, one that gets better every time I see it. And I can’t help laugh when I hear the Beatles launch into the theme, opening with that idiosyncratic chord George Harrison produced off his 12-string Rickenbacker 360.

“It was an F with a G on top,’’ Harrison once revealed during an on-line chat. “But you’ll have to ask Paul about the bass note to get the proper story.’’

And that, music lovers, is the proper story of A Hard Day’s Night.