Thursday night, as many of you reading this know, is my night to howl at the moon.
It’s not that I stay down at Muddy Creek Cafe until the wee hours, making music the way it’s meant to be made among friends at our weekly Open Mic. At 66 I’m too old for that.
No, the problem – if you want to call it that – is that I return home from such joyful musical camaraderie so jacked up that it takes me hours to wind down. And if it wasn’t for good ol’ Bud Light, I’d probably see every Friday sunrise of the year.
Last night I was actually pretty good to myself. I settled in around 3, only to wake up around 10 this morning from the strangest dream, a dream in which the untenable was deemed tenable, the unfathomable was all too fathomable and the insane was being packaged and peddled as perfectly sane.
I woke up from a dream in which the Wake basketball coach nobody wants is still coaching basketball Wake – and will be for the foreseeable future.
Surely it was dream.
Only the barrage of messages on my cell phone proved otherwise.
All along I pondered just to how much would Ron Wellman and the powers that be at Wake be willing to subject anyone and everyone who ever cared one whit about Deacon basketball.
All along, I assured myself that surely Ron Wellman and the powers that be at Wake had seen what we all have seen over the past five years, that Danny Manning is hopelessly over-matched as a head ACC basketball coach.
All along, I assured myself that Ron Wellman would at least attempt to clean up the hot steaming mess he created with his last two basketball hires before he rides off into the sunset come May 1.
All along, I told myself time and again that surely Ron Wellman would not hang a 6-10 albatross around the neck of his successor John Currie, and ensure that Currie’s first basketball season would be chest deep in a raging river in rancor, bile and acrimony.
All along, I just knew in my heart, Wake would have to cut ties with Manning. All along I knew there was no way he could be retained.
And all along I was wrong.
Wellman, ducking the question about the buyout, had the brass to stand up before the assembled media and proclaim that the call to retain Danny Manning as head basketball coach at Wake was “strictly a basketball decision.’’
This was coming, lest we forget, from the man who stood before us all to say he was firing a coach with a 61-31 record because of his inability to win in late-season and post-season play. This was coming, lest we forget, from the man who told us that only weeks before hiring a coach who had never won an NCAA Tournament game.
As I once heard my friend Dave Odom say about a completely unrelated topic, I may have been born at night. But it wasn’t last night.
Don’t you get tired of being played for a fool?
No, there’s only one explanation that Danny Manning is still the basketball coach at Wake, and will be for the foreseeable future.
It’s certainly not Manning’s won-loss record of 65-93, and worse yet, 25-71 against the ACC coaches he was hired to beat.
It’s certainly not the ACC regular-season finishes of 11th, 13th, 10th, 14th and 13th.
It’s certainly not Manning’s record of 1-5 in the ACC Tournament.
It’s certainly not Manning’s 0-1 record in NCAA Tournament, or the way the team that beat Wake – Kansas State — set a season record for shooting percentage from the floor in a 95-88 First Four beat-down.
It’s certainly not any bond or connection the aloof Manning has established with the fan base or media over his first five seasons.
It’s certainly not the inability to graduate more than one player recruited by Manning over his first five years.
And it’s certainly not the mass exodus of 18 players voting with their feet by departing the program with eligibility remaining. (As an aside on this point, I find it particularly sidesplitting that Wellman, in today’s media conference, opined that something just has to be done about the attrition and how it takes seasoned, veteran players for a program such as Wake to win in ACC basketball. The lament was not unlike a person complaining of an ACL tear after his leg has been amputated at the thigh).
No, there’s one explanation and one explanation only that makes sense as to why Danny Manning is being retained as head basketball coach at Wake.
Ron Wellman, early in the 2017-18 season, signed Manning to a contract extension that contained a buyout so exorbitant that the school, two 20-loss seasons later, couldn’t see its way to pay. And this is not only on Wellman, but on anyone and everyone who approved the contract extension early in the 2017-18 season.
Think for just one second about what Manning had proven when the extension was offered and signed. At that point Manning was 83-86 as a head college basketball coach and had managed only two cameos in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, he had secured a recruiting class that some were saying would turn the program’s fortunes around, but, again, lest we forget, some were saying the same about the recruiting class of J.T. Terrell, Travis McKie, Tony Chenault, Carson Desrosiers and Melvin Tabb back in 2010 and the one of Devin Thomas, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Tyler Cavanaugh, Madison Jones, Aaron Rountree, Arnaud Adala Moto and Andre Washington in 2013.
No, on the day the contract extension was announced, Nov. 25, 2017, Manning was 2-4 in the new season having already lost to Georgia Southern, Liberty and Drake. He had proven nothing – other than he was hopelessly over-matched as an ACC coach. There was no college program in the country that wanted to hire Danny Manning away. And there were precious few people at Wake the least bit concerned that some school might.
And that’s when Ron Wellman locked Danny Manning to an extension that two 20-loss seasons later, the school couldn’t find a way to pay itself out from under. And because of that Wellman and the powers that be (and I’m talking here about Nathan Hatch and the board of trustees and one particular well-heeled alum who has his name on the brand-spanking new building) have resigned anyone and everyone who ever cared about Wake basketball to at least one more season of hopeless misery and rank despair.
I always thought the hiring of Jeff Bzdelik as head coach was the dumbest decision by a man I had always considered to be smart. No longer.
Retaining Danny Manning is the dumbest decision of my lifetime of covering basketball.
And I hate that for Ron, a man with whom I built a strong and at times really warm relationship during my days on the beat, and who now will be doomed to Wake basketball infamy.
I hate it for the new guy, John Currie, whose honeymoon as Wake’s new director of athletics is doomed before it even begins.
I hate it for any player playing basketball at Wake who still harbors the fantasy of ever playing in the NCAA Tournament or finishing better than 10th in the ACC standings.
I even hate it for Danny Manning, the coach nobody wants who will be coaching Wake next year. With every loss, of games and/or personnel, Manning will sink ever deeper in the pit of ignominy.
But most of all I hate it for you folks reading this, who apparently are the only people on the planet who still care a whit for basketball as played at Wake.
I woke up from last night’s revelry to a truly sad day at Wake, a day when insanity did indeed prevail.