He’s bald and sports a beard and a belly.
He’s married to a school teacher.
He loves music, enough so that he played in a jazz band in high school.
He loves history, and enjoys sitting in his recliner and watching it on cable TV. His intellectual curiosity reminds me of another man who coached Wake Forest more than a dozen years ago.
He likes people and isn’t above showing it.
He loves life and all its trappings, and again, isn’t afraid to show it.
He’s not adverse to telling a joke, and knows a good one when he hears it. He’s also not adverse to telling the same joke – if it’s good enough — again, and again, and again.
So I lay down one night, only to wake up to find that Wake Forest has hired my kind of guy to coach its basketball program. Based on the buttoned-up, upper-crust image and identity the school always projected during my 25 or so years as the Deacons’ beat writer for the Winston-Salem Journal, Steve Forbes is among the last people I would have expected to find on John Currie’s list of candidates, much less the one standing behind the podium this morning being introduced as Wake’s next basketball coach.
As stunned as I am at Currie’s decision, I’m even more impressed. Clearly the new director of athletics has ushered in a new era at Wake, one in which appearances and pedigree are nowhere nearly as important as relationships and results.
Sorry Mr. Faulkner, but the past at Wake is finally, at long last, past.
“You can’t be standoffish,’’ Forbes said it this morning’s virtual media conference. “I don’t say no.’’
Exclusion and detachment has been replaced by inclusion and warmth. By the end of his sad, sorely unsuccessful six-season stay at Wake, Danny Manning had been tagged Danny Mannequin. His successor can’t stand still even while standing behind a podium answering questions. He wants to get going. He wants to meet new people. He wants to do what he was hired at Wake to do.
Based on what I’ve read these past few days, and what I saw in this morning’s media conference, John Currie has found and hired the cure to what has ailed Wake basketball over this past lost decade. He has found and hired a coach with a roaring fire in his ample belly. He has hired a coach who hates to lose so bad that he’ll lay awake at night figuring out how not to.
Only in time will we know if his glittering won-loss record at past stops will translate into the kind of success Wake basketball fans once came to expect. But what we already know is that a huge gust of fresh air has whipped through not only the Wake basketball program, but the university as a whole.
And riding that gust is the kind of energy, enthusiasm and hope that has been missing all these years.
Like most of you reading this, I’m excited again for Wake basketball. I’m so excited it makes me wonder – if only for a scant second – if I retired a few seasons too early. What I feel certain about is that two friends who cover Wake daily, Les Johns and Conor O’Neill have a much better beat than they had last week – now that they’re working with a coach who might actually help them do their job.
No, I’m enjoying retirement far too much to contemplate a return, even for the kind of fun I expect to see next year.
But what I will do is extend to Steve Forbes an standing invitation to any Open Mic at Muddy Creek Cafe once the pandemic eases off enough that we can resume. I don’t know what instrument you played in the jazz band Coach, but that hardly matters. And if you’re no Waylon Jennings when it comes to singing, well that’s another similarity we share.
It’s about the making of music among fast friends, something I feel sure you know something about.
Welcome to Winston-Salem, Steve Forbes. About time you got here.