Wake’s Resurrection

The word dead, as with the word unique, is absolute. Nothing can be more unique than unique and nothing can be deader than dead.

But just try to tell that to the downtrodden faithful joyously awakening from the dead(est) decade in the once-storied history of Wake Forest basketball.

The alarm has sounded loud and clear across the ACC. Long-slumbering Wake is awake. Deacon basketball is back.

And not only are the Deacons good – good enough to win 10 of the 14 conference games they’ve played going into Saturday’s home game against Miami – but they’re also great fun. They play fast and loose basketball, a style so loose, in fact that they’ve been known to make 26 turnovers (as they did at Florida State) and still win.

They also play fearless basketball. Otherwise they wouldn’t be making left-handed 30-foot skip passes into the corner as Alondes Williams did in last night’s 69-51 victory at N.C. State. Otherwise they wouldn’t rank tied for first in the ACC (with Notre Dame) with five conference road victories, second in the ACC (behind Louisville) with 609 3-pointers attempted, second (to UNC) with 924 offensive rebounds, second (to Duke) with 78.9 points a game and third (to Duke and Virginia) with 100 blocked shots.

Sure they can occasionally drive this former coach with impeccable Biddy-League basketball credentials crazy by reaching for a rebound or loose ball with one hand, or barrelling hopelessly pell-mell into heavy traffic. They may be sloppy at times, and they may be fool-hardy.

But no one can call them scared.

A team, it has often been said, takes on the personality of its coach, and no ACC coach in recent times has been as colorful as that bald, beer-bellied native of Lone Tree, Iowa, (population, 1,312) Steve Forbes. Throughout my 40-year sportswriting career, I was always especially drawn to the great characters of the game, the likes of Bobby Cremins and Jim Valvano and Skip Prosser, the coaches who not only won but constantly reminded folks that basketball, at its heart, is a game, and all games should be fun.

And few have been more fun than Steve Forbes. He naturally likes people, and people naturally like him. He’s what we call in the sportswriting game, great copy. Five years into blissful retirement, my life is grand. One of the few regrets of my career is I never got to cover Steve Forbes.

In this age of Covid and Zoom, Forbes artfully assembled a team on the fly consisting of players who already knew how to play the game well. His remaining task was to teach those players how to play together.

Who knew Williams (6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds at Oklahoma), Jake LaRavia (12.5 points at Indiana State) and Dallas Walton (6.5 points, 2.8 rebounds at Colorado), were as good as they’ve proven to be?

Well at least one man had an inkling, and he’s coaching Wake Forest basketball.

Since the ACC moved the championship game back to Saturday night and expanded to 15 teams, the tournament has tipped off on Tuesday. And since that time, starting with the 2014 tournament, teams finishing in the top four have received a double bye and sat out until Thursday, while teams five through eight have received a single bye and debuted on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Wake has played on Tuesday all seven seasons of the new five-day format. It also bears mention that the Deacons have played on Wednesday only twice, in 2014 and 2017, and never on Thursday.

Maybe, just maybe, the Deacons will pull off the miracle of all miracles and finish first in the ACC. Remarkably, sitting here on Feb. 10, it’s within their grasp.

But short of that, what an accomplishment it would be for Wake to finish in the top four and receive a double bye. Let the dregs begin play in Brooklyn on Tuesday, and the middling teams show up for Wednesday.

It’s time – some would say well past time – for Wake fans to sit back and watch the rest fight it out for two days for the right to play their team. The old-time faithful might have forgotten what it’s like, but would have great fun remembering.

ACC basketball has always been the tonic to help me get through the dead of winter.

Thanks to Steve Forbes and his team, this is the season the dead of winter has come alive.

13 thoughts on “Wake’s Resurrection

  1. Good to read your thoughts. Forbes has been fantastic in putting together this team. They are so fun to watch and, yes, you would love covering them.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dan, I was wondering when you’d get around to commenting on this team.

    Yes, it’s a modern-day Lazarus!

    You can tell a team is good when it wins consistently on the road. This season, the Deacs have broken LONG losing streaks in Charlottesville, Atlanta and Tallahassee and also have won in Blacksburg and Raleigh…places they rarely win.

    In less than two full seasons, Forbes now has 6 ACC road wins. One came last year and five this season. That total of six already matches what Manning’s teams did in six full seasons!

    Dare we dream the Deacs longest road drought dating back to last century and the Duncan Era might fall Tuesday night in Durham? If Miami and Virginia can win there, Wake at least has a shot, which we haven’t been able to say in most seasons.

    IMO, Forbes is the slam dunk ACC Coach of the Year! To remake a 6-16 team from last year to 20-5 so far in just his second season is phenomenal and far exceeding expectations!

    And yes, this team has fun! I love watching Alondes Williams play. That kid plays with a smile and a joy which is contagious!

    With the success of football and now basketball and the ongoing excellence of non-revenue sports like tennis, soccer and baseball, this Wake alum and fan is positively giddy!

    Also, I want to give a shout out to AD John Currie. His first big hire was Forbes. Currie gets and A-plus for that one! Go Deacs!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Welcome back Dan! Great to read your thoughts on the resurrection of Wake Forest basketball and I’m so glad you are enjoying it as much as we are! Yes, I imagine you would have loved covering Steve Forbes – right down your alley – colorful, people person, down to earth and apparently a darn good recruiter and coach! Sure is fun to be a Deac right now!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This has been a long time coming. I am so happy that we have two of the best coaches in the ACC… Three if you count Bobby and I could keep adding. Have you noticed how relaxed Forbes is around reporters and the commentators in interviews and… how relaxed they are around him. They seem to not be nervous around him and they truly like him. Remember way back to when you were a kid, maybe the years 10-15 and you went over to your friends’ houses ? There were parents , especially the dads, that you just took to and there were the ones that you avoided like the plague. Not evil dads, just ones that you just could not be yourself around. . Forbes is the good dad that you could relax around and be who you were. Last night’s interview was so fun to watch. The players seem to really trust him and I will bet you dollars to doughnuts, Williams and Walton will think of Dear Old Wake Forest very fondly in their later years and maybe come back fairly often. Next year the roster looks pretty slim but I am sure that the word is out that you want to play for this man. Great writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful to read your take on this exciting WF basketball team and Coach Forbes. Last night I was thinking it was about time to hear from you, and hoping you have been well. Today I indeed heard from you! Since I left Cherokee, NC in the late summer to begin my freshman year at Wake Forest, I have closely followed the Deacs, even in the toughest of times. This splendid season has indeed been a long time coming… what fun again now! On a personal note, I worked for your Uncle Jim for a bit after returning to Cherokee after graduation from Wake in1975. Jim was a great mentor and friend to me through the years. You come from fine folks… and reading your take on the Deacs is a personal pleasure for me. Take care and let us hear from you again soon,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great hearing from you Barry. Uncle Jim was really special. He and our mother Frances were especially close. Our father died when we were still at home and Uncle Jim helped us pull through. Glad you met and got to know him. And you’re right. I do come from good folks.

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  6. Country!
    Bout time you woke up and came out of hibernation. Hope to see some more articles. Maybe once a quarter??? The decade of darkness has ended. Who would have thought when Dino was terminated that the next two coaches would both be abject failures? Do you remember the anti Wellman billboards that circulated during the period of darkness? Everyone who had followed and loved Wake basketball from Bones to Skip were appalled at how far the basketball program had declined. Wake had always been known for its basketball prowess and not so much in football. It is nice that our football team has progressed from good to great and basketball is not far behind…Enjoy the Moment!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great take on the present WF team that has resurrected itself into a top tier ACC team and one that can make a run in the ACC and NCAA Tourneys thanks to Steve Forbes! He has done a remarkable job and the misery that was once WF basketball is now at Maryland. Go Deacs!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was concerned that you had really retired. It’s great to see your perspective on Deacon basketball again. Even from your easy chair you are still the best writer on Wake Forest sports that we have. There will probably be bumps in the road ahead but Wake Forest basketball is relevant again. Please continue to keep us informed.

    Ed Young (’54)

    Liked by 2 people

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