Wake Basketball: Who Cares?

One of the most significant figures of Wake basketball was sitting courtside today at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavillion for the Deacons’ all-too-predictable 92-79 bellyflop into ACC play.

And sitting next to him was John Collins.

The commentators for the Fox Sports South telecast, my good buddy Wes Durham and analyst Cory Alexander, made much to do about Collins, and how well he’s playing his sophomore season for the Atlanta Hawks and how he visited the Deacons’ locker room for a halftime pep talk.

But truth is, Collins, the first and only Wake player to make first-team All-ACC since Chris Paul’s sophomore season of 2004-05, has presently done what he could do for the Deacons’ basketball fortunes. And it will be all he can do until he decides he has made enough money to plow some back into Wake’s basketball coffers.

It was the man sitting next to Collins who had a much bigger impact on the dire straits the Deacons find themselves, and, more important, what they intend to do about it. If you know Mit Shah, it’s probably by name only, the name that will adorn the $9 million showplace of a basketball complex being built as we speak on campus.

Shah is a 1991 graduate of Wake who walked on the tennis team, before taking on the world and winning hugely as a hotel magnate rich enough to donate more than $7 million to his alma mater. He’s also a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

Shah was one of the influential boosters behind the hiring of Danny Manning before the 2014-15 season. And I, for one, won’t hold that against him. There were plenty of people at the time who thought the hiring of one of the great names in the history of college basketball was a gamble worth taking.

Yet I just had to wonder what was going through Shah’s bright mind as he watched the Deacons stumble to a pretty cut-and-dried loss to a Tech team picked to finish one spot ahead of them at 13th in the ACC preseason predictions. Surely, by now, he has concluded what is obvious for anyone to see.

Danny Manning is not the answer to the bottomless doldrums Wake finds itself in. If he were, we all would have seen that long before now.

Instead, what we saw today was a team that handled the ball like it was radio-active and played the kind of defense that would shame an over-40 team at the local Y. We knew Wake had a bad team. We saw just how bad today, and we’ll continue to see it as the meat-grinder of an ACC season grinds on.

The Yellow Jackets came into the game shooting 45 percent from the floor against a less-than-robust nonconference schedule and scoring 71 points a game. Wake played some man, it played some zone, and it pressed, none of which kept Tech from shooting 56 percent from the floor and scoring 20 points more than its average.

But final tally and shooting percentage only begin to tell the sad tale of where Wake basketball is today. As I’ve mentioned many times, I watch from home these days with a pad on my lap charting number of stops the Deacons get on defense – because I’ve long-since concluded porous defense is their most pressing and longstanding problem.

I actually had to check my figures with the play-by-play from the Wake Athletics website to make sure the Deacons’ defense was as abysmal as I had charted. Turns out it was worse.

Georgia Tech crossed midcourt with the basketball 42 times in the second half, and either scored or got fouled (or both) 29 times. And once the Yellow Jackets got to really rolling, there were rarely stopped.

The headline from the official Wake website says the Deacons’ rally fell short (I know, I know, whoever is responsible has to write something), but it’s hard to rally when the opponent is scoring every time down. Tech scored or got fouled (or both) the last nine times it had the ball, 13 of the last 14 times and 15 of the last 17.

The pattern I’ve noticed as that the Deacons’ defense gets more and more porous as the game wears on, which explains why Wake is as good a bet as any to finish dead last in the ACC – in Danny Manning’s fifth season as head coach.

The rank-and-file fans have been wise to the dumpster fire consuming their once proud program, but the problem is, any and all protestations are falling on deaf ears. Best anyone can tell, the man most responsible for the plight of all Wake athletics, Ron Wellman, simply no longer cares.

Wake can finish 12th, 14th, 10th and 14th in the ACC under the same coach while players leave in droves and the program is relegated to irrelevance, and what does Wellman do?

He extends Manning’s contract.

There’s been a report floating around for some time from Jeff Goodman of ESPN that Manning’s contract will run through the 2024-25 season and that its fully guaranteed to the tune of $18 million.

When asked, Wellman fell back on the usual dodge provided him by Wake’s status as a private institution.

“We do not comment on contract details,’’ Wellman said.

I ask you as fans of Wake basketball. Why do you care? What are you supposed to think when the current coach is losing game after game, and the man who hired him is not even commenting on reports that said coach is under contract through 2025?

Ron Wellman doesn’t care what a grizzled old sportswriter writes on his personal block after his retirement, nor should he.

On the other hand, Ron Wellman, by not addressing the current contract status of Danny Manning, is showing that he doesn’t care what you as the rank-and-file fan thinks.

But I am wondering what Mit Shah, a Wake trustee and CEO of the Noble Investment Group, is thinking along about now.

Because I know Ron Wellman cares about what Mit Shah is thinking.

He has around $7 million reasons to care.

9 thoughts on “Wake Basketball: Who Cares?

  1. I have been saying and wondering the same thing all year. He needs to be the one raising hell so Wellman will finally listen. Danny has no chance to turn this around. He cannot retain players long enough to develop and can’t teach them how to win. Kevin Keats is exhibit number one of what a bad hire this was.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Spot on, Mr. Collins. As to your inquiry about what Wake fans think? Who knows, after 10 bottom dwelling years, they are all gone.

    When does spring practice start? Imagine if Wellman didn’t have the Clawson hire in his pocket.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know anything specific about Manning’s contract, other than what Dan just highlighted, but I’d bet a fair amount of money that Mr. Manning will not be Wake’s coach three months from now. It’s simply too absurd to fathom him returning given his abysmal results since the start of his tenure.

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    1. He certainly shouldn’t be Wake’s coach three months from now, or even three days from now, but if he is owed as much money as has been reported is that really going to happen unless well healed boosters step up and pay the buyout?

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  4. It’s a Catch 22 for us season ticket holders. We’re unhappy, even mad, but we can’t get our money back so a few thousand of us show up fully knowing the inevitable result. Our granddaughter will be visiting when we play Carolina and I went online to purchase a ticket for her. The Joel is almost sold out and we know what the dominant color will be. I can’t fathom how Wellman must feel other than to be a man on the Titanic with utterly no escape plan.

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  5. As a fan and “Double Deac” based in Atlanta, I went to the game yesterday. At first, my GT grad friends I attended with and I joked about how bad the performance was from both teams in the “race to the bottom” of the ACC.

    But as the game progressed, I found myself getting more and more angry. How can Wake fans stand for this performance? Enough is enough. One of the issues is that, as my friend who graduated in 2012 said, “This is our norm. We don’t know any better.” How sad.

    As for your comment, Jim, as a season ticket holder you CAN do something – something several of my friends and family who are based in Winston have done this year – stop buying season tickets. Maybe Ron isn’t listening to the “average fan,” but if enough season ticket holders withhold their dollars, perhaps it can collectively make a financial impact worthy of his attention.

    My personal opinion is that the time has come for a fresh perspective at the top. Let’s not deny the other great coaching decisions Ron has made (Clawson, Muuss, Averill, and others), but let’s all admit what he seemingly cannot – it is time for him to gracefully bow out and put the leadership of Wake Forest athletics into the hands of someone who can make the tough decisions necessary to get us to the next level in the sport that was once our point of pride.

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  6. Wellman did not hire Jen Averill, she was hired by Gene Hooks. And the revisionist history on Jay Vidovich that he hired him is only half true. He was going to hire someone else after that interim season, but the Spry family essentially withheld their donation for the stadium funding or else soccer may not have had the success it had under Jay.

    He also ran a pretty successful basketball coach out of town in 2001, and a successful baseball coach a few years later. Seems that the new baseball hire has things going in the right direction after the dumpster fire “bridge” from Greer to Walter.

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    1. And he never would have even considered Clawson but for Mike Buddie just insisting he come talk to him. It was a true intervention and almost 100% of the credit goes to Mike for the hire. I say fire Ron and Danny and bring in Mike and the Furman coach.

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