Insanity Prevails

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.

20 thoughts on “Insanity Prevails

  1. Dan, the only silver lining of today’s news is that, despite your retirement, we all are able to still read your unmatchable commentary that perfectly encapsulates the situation. Thank you for continuing to weigh in, and please keep it up for those of us that will surely need it for another year.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You absolutely nailed it Dan! I’m done with Wake basketball as long as Manning remains coach and I’m not alone. Surely Wellman and staff have noticed the steady decline of attendance including the once raucous students…….they ain’t seen nothing yet!

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  3. I don’t believe one word of what Wellman or Manning said-it’s all about the money! $18 million reasons Wellman couldn’t fire him.

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  4. Ron Wellman, if you walk out the door right now, no one is going to ask why you didn’t stay through May. You have done enough damage to Wake Forest. Please – just leave – the sooner the better. Nathan Hatch, if you knew of and approved the terms of the Manning extension, it’s time for you to go back to your beloved Notre Dame and let Wake Forest people have their school back. I have been a Deacon Club member for more than 45 years. IF … IF … I rejoin for next year, it will be at the lowest level … but I am not even sure I will rejoin. The one thing that I hate is that great coaches like Dave Clawson and Bobby Muuss will be victims of Wellman’s and Hatch’s malfeasance.

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  5. The most disturbing comment of the day was Wellman saying during the Q&A that he was not worried about the fan base. That we would all return when the winning resumed. How arrogant and belittling to all of us that have donated to and supported this train wreck for so long.

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  6. Country,
    Felt totally frustrated over the event that have occurred March 22, 2019. Unfortunately, for folks at our age, there are not to many basketball seasons remaining hoping for a return to the 90’s when Dave Odom led teams and later Skip Prosser having us an annual visitor to the “Big Dance”…Someone this A.M. posted Wellman’s & Currie’s email on the Ogboards. I sent the following email knowing it would be deleted on receipt but yet is my way of dealing with the excrement laden show of the last 10 years which has been Deacon Basketball… Their emails if anyone is so inclined:

    wellmanr@wfu.edu, currie@wfu.edu

    Mr. Wellman,
    You probably will not read this message but as a follower of WFU sports since the Bones Mckinney era I am appalled at your desire to destroy this University’s signature sport. Have not watched an entire basketball game featuring WFU since 2017.

    Your stubborness and lack of a winning attitude is appalling.

    Mr. Currie my only hope is you do not imitate the actions of your predecessor. Shame on you if you do!!!

    I posted the following on one of the message boards this AM…..

    Many thanks for the update. Since Skip’s passing, this program has been cursed. Wellman’s idea of bringing “CULTURE” to the program without a desire to win and succeed is horrendous. Many long time fans of Wake’s signature sport going back fifty years plus will now be out…

    If Wellman was a Chief Executive Officer of a Corporation the shareholders would have had his ass canned many years ago.

    This past season I have not endured the agony of watching a complete game. Thank you your “Ronness” for allowing me to enjoy the Winter months in peaceful tranquility! If Dave Clawson should depart for greener pastures, it is not inconceivable that WFU be requested to withdraw their ACC membership! NO ONE LIKES LOSERS!!!

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    1. Here’s my own email sent to Wellman yesterday. He has not replied and I don’t expect him to answer, so I’ll put it out here for anyone to read.

      Mar 25, 2019, 12:24 PM (21 hours ago)
      to wellmanr

      Ron,

      As a Wake Forest alum, I appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into the athletics program at the school as your retirement is pending.

      There’s no question you deserve great credit for the successes of football, soccer, baseball, tennis, field hockey and other sports.

      You hired the coaches and they’ve done great work at a challenging academic institution where standards aren’t compromised and the administration won’t dip into the endowment fund to help athletics like other private institutions.

      You’ve also been instrumental in getting exceptionally better facilities for our student athletes.

      While I commend you for your successes, I’m greatly disappointed by your single most blatant failure…the utter destruction of our marquee program, men’s basketball.

      It’s one thing to make the mistakes of hiring Jeff Bzdelik and Danny Manning. It’s something else to double down on those mistakes and let these two bad hires destroy the program for what will now be better than a decade.

      I have friends and sources within the Wake Forest community who told me there was some bad behavior by players on Dino Gaudio’s last team, so you fired him.

      However publicly you stated the reason was his failure to win in the post season.

      I believe that reason, based on what we’ve seen in the last decade, was disingenuous at best or a half truth or bold faced lie at worst.

      Fast forward to your recent news conference announcing Manning will return for a sixth season despite an abysmal record since his arrival.

      You said you made the decision because you were encouraged by the recent play at the end of the season and watching practices.

      Do you really think us few remaining fans believe it? Do you take us for complete fools? What you said was a shameful lie and you know it!

      YOU and the school publicly announced in late 2017 a very foolish extension for Manning right after embarrassing losses to start the season to Georgia Southern, Liberty and Drake.

      I suspect the real reason Manning is coming back for a 6th season is because President Hatch and the Board of Trustees…who are also culpable in this disaster…didn’t want to buy out Manning and clean up YOUR mess.

      To me, you shouldn’t be the one making the decision about whether Manning comes back or not because you won’t be here after May 1.

      I suspect the school administration made you own the mistake and had you make the announcement so new AD John Currie wouldn’t have to take the heat for what I can assure you is a VERY unpopular decision with the few basketball fans you have left.

      Let’s look at the basic facts.

      Manning is 65-93 overall. It’s an average record of roughly 13-19 each year which includes one winning season and First Four NCAA flame out to Kansas State.

      He’s 24-66 in the ACC…an average of 5-13 each year.

      He’s never finished higher than 10th in the league…is 10th place good enough Ron?

      Remember, we’re talking about a school which boasts Tim Duncan, Chris Paul and others as alumni and a school which in the 90’s and early 2000s had the longest men’s basketball post season streak in the ACC!

      Setting aside the atrocious on court record, in five years Manning has graduated 1 freshman he’s recruited, while 18 scholarship players with eligibility remaining (so far) have left the program.

      So the players themselves have made it clear how they feel by leaving.

      Forget the atrocious on court performance, the graduation and retention records are MORE than enough reason for Manning’s dismissal.

      I watched Keyshawn Woods play for Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.

      And Virginia Tech is headed to the Sweet 16 for the first time in 52 years. Coincidentally, Virginia Tech hired Buzz Williams the same season you hired Manning. Williams has 100 wins at a school without the same basketball pedigree as Wake Forest…Manning has 65.

      The bottom line for me is as a long time member of the Deacon Club, I will not be giving any additional money until Manning is gone. I can’t support, with even a small amount of my hard earned funds, this type of mismanagement.

      I suspect your “retirement” may have been a guise for a forced resignation due to this debacle so you can save some face.

      The problem is whether your retirement was your decision or not, you have not saved face with Deacon fans.

      Despite the many positive things you have done for the overall athletics program I’ve noted, this dumpster fire you’re leaving behind for men’s basketball, once our star program, is now your legacy whether you like it or not.

      For me and many other fans, May 1 can’t get here quickly enough.

      Enjoy your “retirement”.

      Sincerely,

      Andy Alcock, Wake Forest ’83

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      1. Andy, you wrote a very truthful and compelling letter. But, you also identified that the higher ups, President, etc, at Wake were on the hook as well as Tim Wellman, and if you think about it, they had the ultimate say. With Ron leaving it was easier for him to make the announcement and take the bullet can’t be Administration or the “new guy”. I’ve known Ron for better and worse for 40 years and a more honorable and honest guy youll never meet or want to meet. Taking one for the team is pretty much what I for one would expect Ron to do. Call him what you like and think what you like, but he gave Wake 27 good years and he’s stepping down. Show me a guy that hasn’t made a few mistakes in 27 years of work and we’ll, you’re showing me a liar. Good email all the same, you took both sides, your being a big Deacon fan aside. Thanks.

        Mark G.

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  7. No more wake will donations, no more Deacon club donations, no more even getting football season tickets even though I love clawson. Ron Wellman has done so much damage to wake. May his legacy ever be tarnished.

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  8. Andy Alcock says:
    March 22, 2019 at 4:11 pm
    I guess the answer is “sanity did not prevail” at Wake! This decision is extending the middle finger to what few fans are left of what used to be our marquee program. My guess is Hatch wouldn’t dip into the endowment to help offset the cost of Wellman’s screw up with Manning’s contract extension. Wellman says the decision to keep Manning was his call alone. He’s clearly put Currie in a tough spot. I personally, although I’ve been a modest contributor, will not donate another dime to the Deacon Club until Manning is gone!

    Dan,

    I couldn’t wait for this new post, so I posted the above comment on your previous post.

    As a longtime TV news journalist, I’ve seen firsthand the tenuous relationship sports journalists have with the teams they cover. Be too hard or critical of them, they cut off access. Don’t be hard enough on them and questions don’t get answered. What bothers me is Wellman is on his way out the door, so who really cares what he thinks…I guess some of these guys…poor guys…will have to deal with Manning again next season…As a news guy…and sometimes news guys cover sports stories like this one…I would’ve asked Wellman about his decision publicly stated after the horrible, embarrassing losses to Georgia Southern, Liberty and Drake to give Manning a contract extension. I would’ve asked Wellman why he was making this decision with a new AD coming in May and is it unfair to Currie. I would’ve asked Wellman about the single graduate and 18 defections and based on that history, what makes him think Manning could turn it around. I would’ve asked Wellman about his last two basketball hires and were they in any way responsible for his “retirement” including the Manning contract extension. Essentially, “Ron, were you forced to retire?” I would’ve asked him if he’s forever damaged his reputation…especially among Wake fans…with the way he’s leaving the hoops program. I would’ve asked why he thinks Wake could do any better than finishing 10th in the ACC…the best they’ve done in the Manning era and is 10th good enough…is that spot in the ACC acceptable. I would’ve more or less asked Manning similar questions. What I heard instead was one question about the extension with Wellman brushed off with we don’t talk contracts and sort of a meek question about whether or not Currie was consulted…but no follow ups…Instead Wellman and Manning were able to basically peddle a bunch of manure unabated and without any real challenge. To your credit Dan, you tell it like it is as a retired guy…but you did the same thing when you were the Wake beat guy. There’s no question Wellman DESTROYED the basketball program with the help of Hatch and the Board of Trustees. He should’ve been held accountable for it at that news conference and he wasn’t. Not only did he destroy it, he left one of the instruments of that destruction as a parting gift! At least he’s being held accountable on this blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The problem at Wake is easy to see. It’s at the top, a bunch of elitist, academia fools- Hatch and the Board. I’ve said for years that the Wake leadership would join the Ivy League if they could. I’m sick of them all. Good riddance with Wellman leaving. Hatch needs to be next. There is no way to be this bad unless you want to be. Manning is way over his head. We all know it. One has to wonder what it takes to get fired at Wake? Totally lost the fan base and the students. Really sad. It’s inexcusable. Nothing will happen until ALL Wake fans stop going to the games and stop giving money. As long as the money keeps coming in, the elitist administration won’t care how many losses we have and that’s the heart of the matter.

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  10. I was sent this column by my Wake fan friend (dog name Deacon) after lamenting the retention of Danny Manning….an event no one outside of Wake can understand. Obviously after reading neither can Deacon Nation. After reviewing only the facts on record after 5 years, how could ANY D1 coach in the country be retained. In a season when Phil Martelli can be let go and Danny Manning retained, we truly are at an apocalypse moment. David Lea

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  11. I agree with all the negative comments about Wellman, Hatch and Manning, however, aren’t the Board of Trustees and the mega-donors like Shah and Sutton highly culpable as well?

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  12. I would love to know what Ernie Nestor thinks about Manning’s coaching skills. WXII did a ten minute on camera interview with Manning last week after he was retained. Needless to say, Wake’s head coach did not inspire confidence with his answers. What a travesty Wellman has perpetrated!

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  13. I wrote Wellman twice after “Buz” was hired saying past performance is a good indicator of future performance. Before Manning was retained I wrote again saying the same thing. I wasted pen and ink because all I got in return was a weak answer

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