In the fifth game of Danny Manning’s fifth season as Wake’s head basketball coach, the Deacons committed 22 turnovers while forcing 10, yielded 16 offensive rebounds, didn’t make a field goal in the final 8:58 of regulation, blew a 14-point lead in the final eight minutes of regulation and lost at home to Houston Baptist in overtime, 93-91.
Yes, that Houston Baptist, the one picked to finish 10th in the vaunted 13-team Southland Conference – ahead of such juggernauts as Nicholls, Northwestern State and Incarnate Word.
Yes, that Houston Baptist, the one that was 1-2, having lost to Arizona by 30 and to Wisconsin by 37.
Yes, that Houston Baptist, the program coming off a 6-25 season in which it won all of two games in the vaunted Southland Conference.
Yes, that Houston Baptist, the program ranked 296 by KenPom – precisely 174 spots below the lowest-ranked ACC team, Pittsburgh.
Yes, that Houston Baptist, the team that scored on 27 of the final 44 times it crossed half-court today in possession of the basketball. The one that spent the first half sizing up the Deacons, and the rest of the game taking the fight to them. The one that gave five players hailing from the state of North Carolina the homecoming of their lifetime.
The Houston Baptist that shouldn’t even be on the same court as an ACC team, much less beating one.
There are bad losses in basketball, and there are worse losses in basketball. Given when it came – in the fifth season under a coach that has already lost to Delaware State, Georgia Southern and Liberty – this one has to be at least in the conversation for worst loss in Wake basketball history.
Yeah, I remember Stetson, the team that knocked off Wake in the same season its coached got fired for losing too many games. But that loss came in Jeff Bzdelik’s first game as head coach at Wake.
Today’s loss came in Manning’s 131st game in charge of the Deacons’ basketball fortunes. And of those 131 games, the Deacons have won 57. In Manning’s 131st game in charge of the Deacons’ basketball fortunes, he calls timeout for the climatic play and the Deacons end up with a long, contested 3-pointer from Brandon Childress that clanked hard off the rim.
“We just wanted to spread the floor,” Manning explained. “We didn’t know the defense, what they were going to come out in. And for us, it’s just ball movement and be able to attack.
“And we were a little stagnant. And we didn’t move the ball and we didn’t get a paint touch. They wanted us to shoot long jump shots and we settled for it too many times.”
I can recall when Wake was good in basketball, which means only that I’m old.
And I’m beginning to wonder if I’m too old to ever again see a day when Wake is again a respected member of the ACC.
Hiring decisions, like elections, have consequences.
When Athletics Director Ron Wellman decided that Dino Gaudio was not the face he wanted of the Wake basketball program, he hired Bzdelik.
And when Bzdelik’s 51-76 record proved untenable, the same man, Wellman, hired Danny Manning fresh off his only two seasons as a head basketball coach at Tulsa.
Whit Babcock, the director of Virginia Tech, found himself in a similar predicament as Wellman going into the 2014-15 season, having watched his basketball program lose 41 of 63 games under coach James Johnson.
So Babcock’s solution was to hire Buzz Williams, and in the four-plus seasons since the Hokies have won 78 and lost 60, played in post-season three-straight seasons and in the NCAA Tournament two-straight seasons, are coming off a 21-12 campaign and are currently ranked No. 13 at 4-0 going into tomorrow’s game against St. Francis.
I defy anyone to name any historical advantage Virginia Tech has over Wake in basketball, but look at the gap between the two programs.
Babcock cared enough about the brand of basketball played by his school to fire a coach after two seasons when it became evident that coach was not the right man for the job.
If losing to Houston Baptist at home in the fifth game of your fifth season doesn’t prove you’re not the right man for the job, then I have to wonder what would. And I also have to wonder if Wake did at long last make a move, would the decision be left to the same man who hired Jeff Bzdelik and Danny Manning?
What’s that definition of insanity again?