Danny Manning has had four seasons to sell his vision of how to lift Wake from the most protracted downturn of our lifetime.
But other than a ballyhooed recruit whose goal is to play college basketball for one season, a junior guard who happens to be the son of the associate head coach, and the director of athletics responsible for hiring Manning in the first place, who of consequence is buying Manning’s pitch?
Bryant Crawford apparently isn’t buying it. Otherwise he wouldn’t be passing up his senior season at Wake for a leap of faith expected to land him on foreign soil playing basketball for whatever the going rate happens to be there.
Doral Moore apparently isn’t either. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have announced last month he’s taking that same leap of faith.
A total of 69 players – 11 from the ACC – were invited to the NBA combine held earlier this month in Chicago. Neither Crawford nor Moore made the list.
Keyshawn Woods obviously is not buying Manning’s pitch. Otherwise he wouldn’t have left for Ohio State as a graduate transfer.
The exodus leaves Manning headed into his fifth season with four scholarship players who have ever suited up for Wake. Add up their points and rebounds, and the quartet averaged, collectively, 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds for a team that finished 11-20.
Crawford, Moore and Woods were all flawed college players. Otherwise the Deacons wouldn’t have finished 14th in the ACC last season at 4-14.
But Crawford did average 16.9 points, and Moore did average 9.4 rebounds. No remaining Deacon averaged more than 9.1 points or 3 rebounds.
The talent drain would be detrimental to most programs at most any time, but at Wake, at this particular time, it’s devastating. The deepest trough in the program’s history continues to get deeper.
The only good way to judge one era from another is record against conference competition. Before Ron Wellman fired Dino Gaudio after the 2009-10 season, the worst eight-season period of Wake basketball encompassed Carl Tacy’s last three seasons (1982-83 through 1984-85), Bob Staak’s four (1985-86 through 1988-89) and Dave Odom’s first (1989-90). Wake, over those eight seasons, was 32-90 against ACC foes, for a winning percentage of ..262
A new standard has been set, though it’s not one you might expect to read on the school’s website. Over the eight seasons Jeff Bzdelik and Manning have been calling the shots, the Deacons are 39-111 against sister ACC schools.
The winning percentage is .260.
But the biggest problem now facing Wellman and anyone who still cares for Wake basketball is not where the program has been these past eight seasons, but where it is headed.
Odom’s first team was 12-16 and 3-11. But Staak did leave him Derrick McQueen, Chris King and Anthony Tucker, and Odom went out and sold himself and his program well enough to land the greatest recruiting class in school history.
Two from the class, Rodney Rogers and Randolph Childress, are in the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame. Two others, Trelonnie Owens and Marc Blucas, were solid ACC starters
So for all the fans and supporters had been through, they were heartened by better times ahead.
Who at Wake today is heartened by what lies ahead?
All coaches have their strengths and weaknesses. But the successful ones are able to sell themselves and their vision, and use that vision to galvanize all the available parts into a cohesive unit sharing one common goal. No coach I ever encountered was better at selling himself and his vision than Skip Prosser, but others, like Odom, are able to do it in other, less overt ways.
But to sell a vision, a coach has to sell himself. When has Danny Manning, fawned over for his basketball abilities since the age of 14, ever had to sell himself?
And to sell a vision, one has to have a one.
Has anyone ever heard Danny Manning articulate his vision of how to lift Wake from the most protracted downturn of our lifetime? I covered Manning for three seasons, and I never heard one. I did hear him say, upon accepting the job, how the program was going to hang its hat on defense, but few teams in the ACC have been as easy to score against than those coached by Manning.
Has Manning articulated a vision to the fan base that I’ve missed? If so, I’m anxious to hear it.
Has Manning articulated a vision to his players?
One would certainly expect so. But whether he has or not, the players have to buy into it.
Instead they keep voting with their feet, and Manning keeps losing.
And so does Wake.