If sanity prevails, and Danny Manning really did coach his last game at Wake yesterday, future generations might wonder how a chapter of Deacon history that began with such fanfare and promise ended in such utter despair and failure.
The raw numbers of Manning’s five years are pretty raw indeed.
Overall record: 65-93.
Record against ACC competition: 25-71.
Regular-season finishes: 11th, 13th, 10th, 14th, 13th.
Record in ACC Tournament: 1-5.
Record in NCAA Tournament: 0-1.
Freshmen recruited by Manning who graduated: 1.
Scholarship players who departed with eligibility remaining: 18 (so far).
As if all that wasn’t damning enough, a better, more graphic indication of the abysmal brand of basketball played under Manning could be gleaned from video of yesterday’s 79-71 loss to Miami in the first round of the ACC Tournament.
I would instruct the curious to roll the tape to the 12:35 mark of the first half. The Deacons have scored eight straight to lead 16-9. Miami is reeling, having turned the ball over on four of five previous possessions. The Hurricanes’ spark plug guard, Chris Lykes, has two fouls. What Wake following there is at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center is making its presence felt.
Miami’s Jim Larranaga, out of desperation, calls time.
Now that’s the moment a good team, or even a mediocre team playing well, takes the game by the throat. Everything is going its way. The opponent has been playing short-handed all season en route to a 5-13 conference record. Larranaga is debating on whether to bench Lykes or roll the dice. The Canes, who have lost four of their last six, are discombobulated.
Anyone who expected such a result knows nothing about Wake basketball as played for Danny Manning.
What actually happens is the Deacons come out of the timeout and spill their lead down the nearest drain. Isaiah Mucius, playing like the freshman he is, turns the ball over. Jaylen Hoard, playing like the freshman he is, turns the ball over. Hoard turns the ball over again.
It’s oft been said there are no freshmen in college basketball come March.
It’s also oft been said that there is an exception to every rule.
Down at the other end, D.J. Vasiljevic pours in five quick points, hitting a jumper off an offensive rebound and nailing a 3-pointer from the right corner when Hoard loses track of him in the Wake zone.
And like that, the moment is gone and Wake is in a dogfight the rest of the way – a dogfight it would lose in most familiar fashion.
Miami, a team that has worn down all season because of lack of numbers, crossed midcourt with the ball 35 times in the second half. The Canes scored on 22 of those possessions.
Danny Manning was schooled by experienced, accomplished ACC coaches from the day he arrived at Wake, and he was schooled by an experienced, accomplished ACC coach in his final game.
Larranaga, the guy who has won 645 games over 33 seasons as a Division I head coach, knew what his team had to do. He told the Canes to drive the ball to the hoop.
Manning, the guy who has won 168 games over seven seasons as a Division I head coach, had no idea how to stop Miami. The Canes gutted the Wake defense in the second half like so many teams have done before over Manning’s five seasons.
That hat that Manning proclaimed he would hang his program on was once again stomped into the hardwood. Looking back, maybe the hat Manning had in mind was a beanie, with a propeller on top.
A long-time compadre, Ed Hardin of the Greensboro New and Record, asked what is on the mind of everybody and anybody who ever cared about Wake basketball after yesterday’s loss.
Did Manning expect to be back for a sixth season?
“That’s my hope,’’ Manning replied. “That’s always the hope. You know, I feel I’ll be back.
“You know, I’ll look at the scorecard, the score sheet, and everyone that scored is an underclassman. We had some guys that grew a significant amount this year in terms of their growth from the start to the finish, and that’s how we want to build it.’’
And like that the great excuse for this season – youth – has been given as a reason for Manning to get another season.
Wellman told reporters he’ll will go through the standard evaluation process and meet with Manning now that the season has ended, like he does with every coach at Wake. I can’t imagine we’ll hear anything until after the ACC Tournament concludes on Saturday.
But as I’ve written before, and may even write again before next week, the retirement of Ron Wellman and hiring of John Currie makes absolutely no sense if Wake intends to retain Danny Manning as head basketball coach.
No sense whatsoever.
It was Wellman who made a mess of the Wake basketball program, and it’s up to him to clean it up.
If Manning is head basketball coach next season, John Currie’s first season as director of athletics will be miserable, one mired in vitriol, rancor and full-fledge rebellion.
Does Ron Wellman really have the nerve, much less the indecency, to hang a 6-10 albatross around his successor’s neck?