So where does Wake go from here?
An odd-timed parting with Danny Manning has left the school in a tough position in a time when much of the world is on hold.
But for the Deacons, who have endured 10 long years languishing at or near the bottom of the ACC standings, this looks more like an opportunity than a problem. Whomever gets the job now, he’ll have an eager fan base emerging from a decade in hiding.
As one prominent booster said this morning, with a new athletics director and great new facilities, this is the “best position we’ve been in to attract a high-quality candidate. We will get this right.”
This time, they have to
The past two coaches at Wake Forest guided the program from national prominence to national disgrace. That will be the backdrop behind the next coach at Wake. But the future will look a lot different.
The ACC coaching fraternity is aging. Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, Roy Williams at North Carolina, Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, Leonard Hamilton at Florida State and Jim Larranaga at Miami will not be coaching for much longer. They’ll all be in their 70s when the next season begins.
Wake’s new coach will likely be young and positioned to establish his program as many of the top ACC programs enter a period of transition.
But he’ll also face the harsh reality of rebuilding at the smallest major-conference school in America, a university with a tiny alumni base and fans who have, quite frankly, abandoned the program.
Wake has lost its students, its biggest donors, some advertisers and worst of all, it has lost the support of Winston-Salem. Lawrence Joel Coliseum was virtually empty at times in the last decade.
And the history of basketball at Wake Forest shows that it’s not easy to rebuild. Many coaches though the years have had success, from Bones McKinney in the 60s through Dino Gaudio, who was fired in 2010. In between, coaches like Carl Tacy, Dave Odom and Skip Prosser had good to brilliant seasons, but almost all struggled to maintain success once the program slipped a little.
Never has it been as bad for as long a period as the past 10 years.
This has never been a tougher job than it is right now. And now, the new coach will have to rebuild a basketball program at the smallest school in the country, in the most successful league in college basketball and in the winningest state in the modern history of the game.
It will be a daunting task. Through the years, we’ve seen that it’s harder at Wake Forest to regain momentum once you’ve lost it.
John Currie, the new athletics director, said today that despite the challenges of a coaching search during a pandemic, the school would conduct the process with the help of a search committee along with people on and off campus to find the right person.
“We’re in the heart of Tobacco Road competing in the premier basketball league in the country,” he said.
That’s a good thing, but it’s also what makes winning at Wake Forest so tough and maintaining a winning program even tougher.
But make no mistake about it, even as the timing and times make for a difficult transition, this is the top college basketball job available in the entire country.
As painful as it has been watching Wake Forest basketball for the past decade, this should be fun to watch.