Will Insanity Prevail — Again?

Wake will play Pitt Tuesday in the ACC Tournament.

Who cares?

Seriously, who cares?

And for those who do care, I have a second question.

Why?

It’s become painfully obvious in every way that the stewards of the once-proud Wake basketball program – and I’m talking about you Nathan Hatch, Ron Wellman, Mit Shah, Ben Sutton etc., etc. – don’t give a hoot about whether the Deacons win or lose. Or, to be fair, if they do give a hoot, they haven’t, to date, cared enough to do anything about the sad and sorry shape the program is in.

The haven’t cared enough to keep the second decade of the 21st century from descending into the kind of despairing depths never before suffered since Wake played its first ACC game in 1953. In no earlier decade have those who invest their time, money, energy and support into Wake basketball had such a scant, meager return on that investment.

Wake, being a private school, doesn’t have to tell anybody anything. And, under the present regime of Danny Manning, Wake has mastered the art of not telling anybody anything. The problem with not telling even your most ardent fans anything is that the day will arrive when there aren’t any ardent fans who want to know anything about Wake basketball.

Signs are all around us – and I’m thinking here of that night a couple of weeks ago when barely enough fans to fill half of Joel Coliseum showed up to celebrate and honor Dave Odom and his 1995 ACC champions – that that day has already arrived.

But if what we’re all hearing again is correct, that the decision is now being made as to whether to bring Manning back for a seventh year, we should soon know if we are to add another name to that list of folks who don’t care enough about the state of Deacon basketball to do anything about it. Will the name of John Currie be added to the list?

Currie took the director of athletics reins from Wellman in May.  Several folks I know well enough to trust and respect made the point that Currie should be given a year to survey the damage and clean up the hideous mess Wellman made by gutting and filleting Wake basketball and leaving it out in the heat for 10 years to stink to high heaven.

But now that Currie has had that year, he’s seen what any objective and reasonable person had to know no later than three years ago. He has to also know by now that Danny Manning, a coach who in his six seasons in the ACC has finished 11th, 13th, 10th, 14th, 13th and 12th in the standings, is woefully ill-qualified to run an ACC basketball program.

So how many ways does Manning have to prove that, even at the height of 6-10, he’s in way over his head as an ACC coach? One way is by winning all of 30 of the 110 ACC games he’s coached. Another way is compiling a 78-110 overall record, a mark stained by setbacks to Delaware State, Georgia Southern, Liberty, Houston Baptist and Gardner-Webb – not to mention the six-straight losses to perennial power Clemson. Losing to Clemson in basketball six straight times is hard to do, so hard that no Wake coach before Manning managed the feat.

If Manning were running a solid program that graduates its players, at least that would be something to acknowledge and admire. But the program is not solid enough to keep players from exiting in droves, and the one player recruited by Manning to graduate after four years was Mitchell Wilbekin.

Brandon Childress should be the second. That will make two in six seasons.

If Manning were a bonafide ACC coach, Wake wouldn’t be draining so much revenue in an arena that, even on a good night, is half-empty. Good for Conor O’Neill for chronicling the damage done a week or so in the Winston-Salem Journal.

Wellman made three disastrous decisions that doomed the Wake basketball program to its current pitiable state. The first was hiring Jeff Bzdelik to replace Dino Gaudio (he of the 61-31 record at Wake) in a move that was never adequately explained. The second was to hire Danny Manning to replace Bzdelik, even though Manning was thoroughly unproven as a head basketball coach.

But it was Wellman’s third decision that is turning out to be the most catastrophic of all, a decision that has resulted in Manning still drawing a quite hefty paycheck as the Deacons basketball coach despite all his efforts to prove he doesn’t deserve it. Wellman, in all of his infinite wisdom, was somehow convinced to give Manning a long-term, iron-clad contract extension apparently loaded with an extortionate buyout clause that Wake will somehow have to deal with in order to ever get rid of him.

Wellman did so after the 2016-17 season, a campaign in which the Deacons finished 10th in the ACC and slipped into the First Four of the NCAA Tournament, only to be run out of Dayton in the second-half of a 95-88 loss to a mediocre Kansas State team. The Wildcats, lest we forget, shot 70 percent in the second half while pouring 55 points through that sieve known as the Deacons’ defense. The Wildcats, lest we forget, were drubbed 75-61 by Cincinnati in its next game for their 14th loss of the season.

The question has been asked before, and it will be asked as long as I have a laptop.
Who in the world was looking to hire Danny Manning away from Wake in March of 2017? Why did Wellman give him the kind of money that, to date, Wake has been unable to pay? And of all the deceit Wellman spread over his final years as Wake’s director of athletics, none compared to his preposterous claim that the move to bring Manning back for 2019-20 was a “basketball decision.’’

To complete a post filled with questions, I’ll ask one more. If Danny Manning is retained for a seventh season, how can John Currie, now that he has been AD for a year and surveyed the damage, stand before what’s left of the long-suffering Wake fan base and say he cares about Wake basketball? How can he ask for the time, energy, effort, and, most of all, money it takes to support a college basketball program?

If he tries – and from all I can tell, he just might – then his efforts will be as worthless as a ticket to a Wake basketball game.

Nobody will buy it.

16 thoughts on “Will Insanity Prevail — Again?

  1. Wellman and Hatch could not have destroyed the program anymore than they have even if they’d tried. Truly an epic fail!

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    1. Really miss your regular “My takes.” Danny thinks his team has “has taken a step” & that he deserves to be back. I’m afraid Currie won’t remove him & a year from now we’re having the same conversation about firing DM after another 18+ loss season.

      Someday I would love to read the in-depth story of how the extension evolved & how the numbers were determined. Did Manning demand it & Wellman cave or did Wellman initiate? Why would Wellman, Hatch & BOT sign off on one of the worst contract extensions in NCAA history? Somebody will eventually talk, right?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s all about the money. Is Wake willing to pay $12 million (or whatever) to buy him out and where will that money come from?
    With all the money that has been poured into new facilities, it’s time to remove him as there is no return on the facilities investment, as yet and the longer we wait, the more unattractive we become as fewer good athletes will commit to this mess.

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  3. Dan, you were right last year and you’re right again this year! There has been some reporting last week claiming Wake is in buyout negotiations with Manning’s agent. I’ll believe it when I see it!

    I can’t really lay this fiasco at Currie’s doorstep. I don’t know how much leverage he has to get rid of Manning given Wellman’s UNBELIEVABLY foolish contract extension for Manning.

    Currie’s hands may very well be tied if Wake can’t come up with the money to get rid of Manning.

    Dan, you are right, the school has long since reached the point of diminishing returns on the program with lost revenue.

    One MAJOR problem is Wake, unlike other private schools in Power 5 conferences, will not dip into its endowment fund to help out sports.

    So Wake is relying on a small (and growing smaller) fan base and alumni base to support athletics.

    I have made the decision, and I’m sure I’m not alone, to not give another dime to the Deacon Club while Danny Manning is getting a hefty paycheck for this atrocious product.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mr. Collins,

    I agree with your assessment of Wellman’s three worst decisions regarding the basketball team. There are important lessons to take away from all three. Among the lessons from the first one – the decision to replace Gaudio with Bzdelik – is that you should identify a viable replacement before letting the first guy go. Who is your “short list” to replace Manning? And will Wake Forest be able to pay him given the financial commitment necessary to get rid of Manning (who has zero incentive to accept a buyout if the reports of his guaranteed deal are true)?

    Lastly, if Wake Forest didn’t fire Manning last year, then has enough changed this year to give us some optimism that he’s going to be let go this year? Simply the presence of Currie (who could have fired Manning last year)? I’m pretty much willing to cling to any hope here, but I worry that the financial strain to fire Manning is still too much, so the plan to is to keep investing in the facilities and try to put the program in position rebound as soon as it’s possible to bring in a new coach. Thanks as always for your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. With 20-20 hindsight on March 19, 2020 my gut feeling is the longer COVID-19 lingers the less likely that Currie relieves Manning this calendar year.

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      1. I’m thinking with the loss of revenue from the ACC TV package, there is even less money available to buy out DM. I think we’re stuck with him for another year.

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