Updates at 8:14 p.m. with new information:
Before Steve Forbes went to bed Wednesday night, having accepted the job as Wake Forest’s new basketball coach, his wife, Johnetta, had a simple reminder.
“She looked up and said, ‘You do realize Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams are in your league?’” Forbes said. “I said, ‘Well thanks, Johnetta, I’m really going to sleep well for these next few hours.’”
It’s likely Forbes will sleep better tonight, if only because of the energy spent the day he was announced as Wake Forest’s next coach.
Forbes, 55, takes over a program that’s lain dormant in the ACC for most of a decade. Without coaching a game at Joel Coliseum yet, he’s shown that he has the energy that needs to be pumped into the program.
“Wake has a proud tradition, a history of really good basketball, NCAA Tournament basketball, NBA players, and it’s been down for a while,” Forbes said. “And when I went to East Tennessee State, again, nine NCAA tournaments, a great run in the '90s, Mister (Keith) Jennings, and all of a sudden it needed a spark, man.
“It needed some new life, and we gave it to them. And that’s the way I look at this job, is everything is here. We’ve just gotta give it some life.”
There’s a simple 47-second video posted on the athletics department’s social media that serves as a Defibrillator — at least until the season starts.
The video starts with Forbes standing in the newly constructed practice court in Shah Basketball Complex and looking at banners for retired numbers that hang from the rafters.
In walks Athletics Director John Currie, who says he has approval from the compensation committee and board of trustees to make an offer but asks two questions: “Are our players going to graduate?” and “Are we going to put some more of those up?” as the camera flashes to the four ACC championship banners.
“Yes we are,” was Forbes’ answer to the first question and “That’s what we came here to do,” was the answer to the second.
Currie tosses a whistle to Forbes, who catches it, spikes his mask — truly a sign of the bizarre COVID-19 age we’re living in — and yells into the camera, “Let’s go Deacon Nation! Let’s get this done! Let’s go!”
Indeed, Forbes is fired up.
“I didn’t really grow up in ACC country. I was mad when N.C. State beat UCLA, you know, Tom Burleson and David Thompson” for the 1974 championship, Forbes said. “And then I coached in the Big 12, I coached in the SEC, so I’m taking a tour.
“It’s a very daunting league. You look around the league with all of these Hall of Fame coaches, all these great players, the depth, the tradition, I mean, you think about — I come from a town of 1,014 people, I graduated with 32 people and one stop sign in my hometown, and now I’m a head coach in the ACC. That’s a heck of a deal, a heck of a ride.”
Forbes is a grinder, evidenced by a career that started with nine seasons in junior college ranks.
He didn’t have a Division I head coaching job until he was 50; now he’s an ACC head coach at 55.
“It’s kind of like getting a triple-double in basketball: You’ve got three outstanding qualities in this school and this institution,” Forbes said. “No. 1 is the world-class education, No. 2 is the world-class training facilities here, and No. 3 is the ACC.
“When you throw all three of those things together, that’s a heck of a combination.”
Barring something unforeseen, Forbes will be the only first-year coach in the ACC next season. It’ll be the second straight season that the league’s only incoming coach comes from a Southern Conference school — Mike Young jumped from Wofford to Virginia Tech, and the Hokies were 16-16 overall and 7-13 in the ACC in his first season.
Forbes is tasked with remaking Wake Forest’s roster, and that starts with re-recruiting the few players remaining. A fifth player since the season ended, rising sophomore Ismael Massoud, entered the transfer portal this evening.
Indications are that Massoud and classmate Jahcobi Neath are both open to returning to Wake Forest.
“We’ve got to work to re-recruit our current players and I told them on the Zoom meeting today … I told them this and I mean this, you’re never going to hear me say to you or anybody, ‘I can’t wait to get my players,’” Forbes said. “These guys today on this roster are my players. And I hope they all want to come be a part of this.
“I’m going to work really hard, and my staff, over the next week, two weeks, three weeks to build a relationship with these guys to get this roster back intact.”
The work is under way — Forbes plans to bring almost all of his coaching staff with him — to rebuild the Deacons in Forbes’ image.
The goal is clear.
“We came here to play meaningful games in March," he said. "We came here to compete for championships. Now, is that going to happen tomorrow? I don’t know, probably not. But that’s the plan. And that’s the way we’re going to attack it each and every day.”