A Sales Pitch No One is Buying

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.

And obviously Donovan Mitchell and Richard Washington are not either. Both had a shot at extended playing time in the ACC next season, and both decided to try their luck elsewhere.

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.

12 thoughts on “A Sales Pitch No One is Buying

  1. Part of the problem is the celebration of players that have left early to play professionally. It’s one thing to celebrate Duncan, who stayed, and another to celebrate those who left early for the draft like Paul. But to celebrate folks like Mitiglou, who left during the summer, but who was up on the video board at the games being cheered is counter productive. If anything, Manning has fostered a vision of the program as a “minor league stepping stone to the pros.” That’s not something Wake should be celebrating.

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  2. I’m not sure that cracks the top 100 reasons for this disaster. But, we do have a great class coming in next season. So, by keeping Manning another season during which he will (1) waste the 2018 class and (2) fail to recruit well for 2019 will set us back even further. The smart move would have been to fire Manning after last season, replace him with an up and coming coach who would inherit a very promising group of young players in Sarr, Brown, Mucius, and Hoard, and could have had some momentum.

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  3. Having watched Danny Manning quietly patrol the sidelines like a lazy manitee while the shark-like Jim Boeheim and others evisorate the officials for their calls, resulting in future more favorable calls, I have privately wondered if he is up to this task? I really don’t think he is and maybe some lesser Conference with lower standards and expectations will be better for him and no doubt that is where his coaching career is headed.

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    1. Bingo! I don’t know which is worse – keeping Manning or having Wellman screw up another coaching search. Maybe both will be gone by this time next year.

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  4. Great post, Dan. While it is interesting to look to the the stats, I think the eight year period 1982-1990 were less of a quagmire than the current stretch. Tacy’s 83 & 84 teams were 7-7 in an absolutely loaded conference, in an era that required Wake to play each team twice. The ’83 team had the collapse at the end of the regular season, but came together enough to play an NC State (the eventual national champion) team down to the last possession, when it had been humiliated by the Wolfpack by 41 the week before. The ’84 team reached the Elite Eight, which has happened only once more in the 34 years since. The Staak years were a struggle, but Tacy’s unexpected summer departure probably helped cause that. (Tacy did leave behind a highly regarded recruiting class, though). And by the end of Staak’s term, the recruiting was getting better. Odom, of course, brought better results immediately in recruiting and then started winning in his second year.

    All of this is to say that while the 82-90 period may have had only a .004 better winning percentage than the current eight year run, I don;t believe that period was nearly as bleak as the current.

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  5. Dan, Are you aware that Manning’s 24 year old son is the Director of Player Development at Wake? This smacks of nepotism in my opinion.

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  6. Young Manning’s promotion to Director of Player Development was not reported in the WS Journal because, apparently, Wake never issued a press release, which should be standard procedure. I’d love to hear Ron Wellman’s explanation for that omission. Surely they weren’t trying to hide anything. 🤔

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    1. Nor did Wake issue any release when Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore decided to make themselves available for the draft. The first official word came when both announced they weren’t coming back.

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