Listen Wake fans and you shall hear, of when finishing fourth in the ACC was a really bad year.
At long last, a banner honoring and celebrating Dave Odom’s coaching career at Wake will be hung from the rafters at Joel Coliseum before tomorrow night’s game against Georgia Tech. At long last.
Odom, in his 12 seasons at Wake, won 240 games, was named ACC Coach of the Year three times, coached the Deacons into the NCAA Tournament seven-straight times (and eight times overall), beat Duke nine-straight times, (including five-straight at Cameron Indoor Stadium), and won the school’s only two ACC titles – back-to-back no less – since the halcyon days of Bones McKinney, Len Chappell and Billy Packer way back in 1961 and 1962 when players of color needed not apply to conference schools.
And in his off years (at least after needing one 3-11 season to get the program back up and running) he finished no worse than 7-9 in ACC play and was invited to the NIT every time – extending the school’s streak of post-season play to 11-straight seasons. In 2000, a season they finished fifth, his Deacons won the NIT title.
By the end of that season, while it was winning eight of its last nine, Wake was a team that no opponent in college basketball looked forward to playing.
Retired at age 77, Odom, never one to sit around and twiddle his thumbs, is still looking good. And to the win-starved faithful at Wake – what there are left of them – what Dave Odom did for the Black and Gold is looking better and better.
Such is longing for the good old days at a school that, since 2010, has failed to finish above 10th in the expanded ACC. Such is the longing at a school that can’t give away enough tickets to fill up half of Joel Coliseum. Such is the longing at a school that will have to rally to avoid a third-straight 20-loss campaign – which would make it the fourth 20-loss campaign in five seasons.
Such is the longing.
So finally, at long last, Wake Forest will hang a banner of Dave Odom’s likeness above Joel Coliseum this Wednesday while the school also celebrates and honors the ACC champion 1995 squad – my personal favorite during my 25 years of covering the Wake beat for the Winston-Salem Journal. Who will ever forget those three days in early March when the Deacons, riding the legendary, record-breaking performance of senior Randolph Childress, beat arch-rival North Carolina to take home the school’s first conference crown in 33 seasons?
Those of us who were around for the Golden Era of Wake basketball can still remember those days when the Deacons could take on any team in the country, and on the right night, with the right breaks, could win. We can recall when the only excuse coming out of the basketball program was for being invited to the NIT instead of the NCAA. We can recall when NBA teams couldn’t wait for the likes of Rodney Rogers and Tim Duncan to finish their college careers at Wake and go pro.
We can remember the ear-splitting decibel level at packed and pulsating Joel Coliseum while the Deacons were dismantling third-ranked Kansas 84-53 on Dec. 7, 2000.
And yes, we remember Oklahoma State in the Meadowlands in 1995, Kentucky in Minneapolis in 1996, Stanford in Tucson in 1997 and, gulp, Butler in Kansas City in 2001. But hey, even Mike Krzyzewski – to my mind, the greatest college coach ever – had his Lehigh and his Mercer.
The Butler debacle was the last game Dave Odom ever coached at Wake. It should not have been. Dave Odom represented Wake Forest the way it needed and wanted to be represented, and he won. If Ron Wellman had been smarter than he proved to be, he would have never let Dave Odom get away.
Dave Odom, by all rights, should have retired at Wake. Dave Odom, by all rights, should have had his banner in the rafters at Joel Coliseum long before now.
But better late than never.
As the song sung by the late-great Otis Redding reminded us so well, you don’t miss your water til your well runs dry.
And the well, in case you haven’t noticed, is bone dry. And it’s destined to stay that way until John Currie, Wellman’s successor, goes out and finds a coach up to the task of winning in the ACC.
It’s destined to stay that way until Currie finds a coach like Dave Odom.