Dave Gets His Due

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.

About time.

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.

15 thoughts on “Dave Gets His Due

  1. Coach Odom was a great coach and is a great person. Whatever good things Ron Wellman may have done at Wake are far overshadowed by the way he treated Coach Odom and the ridiculous hirings of Bzdelik and Manning. That Manning is in his 6th year at Wake is unconscionable. Wake Forest basketball has been an embarrassment for the past 10 years. Congratulations to Coach Odom for a great career! He should have been able to retire at Wake.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent, as always, Dan. I still have nightmares about Tony Rutland’s baseline 3-point attempt in the Meadowlands late in the game against OK State that was halfway down. . . . it still haunts me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Remember Dave Odom who I always affectionately referred to as the “Little Professor” was the top assistant at UVA under Terry Holland. Knew when he became head coach @ Wake good things were about to happen and they sure did! Class act and Dan you are 100% correct, the banner should have been placed many years ago.
    Of course Dave left the program in good steed when he departed to USC and was succeeded by Skip Prosser. I always wonder how the dastardly Wellman who hired Prosser screwed up so bad when he hired Bz and Manning…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article and yes I still remember those good ole days at Wake. I hope the new AD realizes he must act and remove Manning (regardless of the ridiculous buy-out in his contract.) and hire another coach line Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! Dan, you summed up, perfectly, how most long-time Wake fans felt/feel. It must feel liberating to “speak the truth” without fear of retribution. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I shared an Odom story in this comment section once before about how Coach Odom spent some time with a friend of mine and I after an alumni event in Richmond the week that Duncan was decding to stay or go pro. Coach Odom excused himself at some point to take a call from Timmy D. and then came back and hung out with us some more when he didnt have to return. Very happy he is getting this recognition. As we all do, I miss those honorable days of Wake basketball.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great blog as always Dan. As usual, you are spot on!

    It’s definitely a shame Odom left Wake to go to South Carolina. What he did at Wake was phenomenal!

    You mentioned the five straight wins his team had at Cameron Indoor Stadium. I think it’s worth noting the Deacons haven’t won there since he left, Duncan’s senior season in 1997.

    While Wellman didn’t or couldn’t keep Odom, I’ll give him credit for hiring Skip Prosser. Prosser was pretty great as well…and frankly the program has never fully recovered since Skip’s untimely death.

    Gaudio’s kids behaved badly off the court so he had to go…But Wellman’s hires of Bzdelik and Manning have been the two worst Wake hoops hires maybe in program history!

    And the worst part of those hires for Wellman wasn’t the hires themselves, it was keeping both of those coaches WAY too long…in Manning’s case, doubling down with a ridiculous contract extension.

    The question now is when Currie and the Wake Administration will be willing to eat whatever buyout is left on Manning’s contract and send him packing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Well said, many tend to forget that for all the good he did Wellman turned his back on Dave and kicked him to the door. I drove from Richmond to be at last nights event and made sure to track down Mr Curry to make sure he knew this shouldn’t have taken 25 years to happen.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Dan, It’s good to find a new blog in my in-box and especially good to be reminded that there were days when Wake Forest basketball was a positive subject in national conversations.    And Dave Odom was the man who made that happen.  Thank goodness John Currie has honored that man and his teams.  Now perhaps he can find another Dave Odom.  Old time Deac fans like me can only hope and pray that he does and soon. Best wishes,Ed YoungVirginia Beach, VA

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dan- a very true testament of what Dave Odom meant to Wake Forest and what Wake Forest meant to him. I truly believe he would have retired at WF given the chance but the Butler game was a chance for Wellman to make a change (and “encourage Odom to look elsewhere”). He did great things at SC winning I think two NIT Championships. Great to see Odom and the players who made it back laughing and all together reliving the glory years of Wake Forest Basketball that seem so long ago. If Currie gets the right person/coach that fits WF, then he can get us back to respectability quickly and winning consistently in the near future. It will take some time to build a NEW culture of pride and winning that Manning has destroyed, but it can be done!

    Liked by 1 person

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