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.