It’s hard sometimes to be a Wake Forest fan. You struggle to become an elite basketball program, and almost- but not quite- make it. A taste of honey and all that. Meanwhile Duke and UNC go to Final Fours the way most of us go to meals, and even win National Championships in down years.
The one thing that makes it all bearable has been Ron Wellman, the Athletic Director. He is as much of a constant to the patient and hopeful WFU fan as Penny is to Desmond. He has shown a smart and steady hand, master-minding the resurgence (or surgence, maybe) of WFU’s football team by hiring and keeping Jim Grobe. Even the women’s basketball team made the NIT this year, which is about as likely as Hoosiers.
Earlier this week, Ron fired basketball coach Dino Gaudio, citing WFU’s consistent year-end and and post-season crash and burn. I tend to think there was more to it than that- WFU couldn’t even make the Final Four with Tim Duncan AND Randolph Childress, so whoever put a post-season curse on the Deacons did it long before Dino Gaudio even heard of Wake Forest.
Regardless, I thought it was the right move. There are hordes of WFU fans who are so beat down by years of disappointment that they have become conditioned to have low expectations for WFU sports. If we can stay in the top half of the conference, get to the Sweet Sixteen every other year or so, then we should be happy.
I have always thought that was utter hogwash. Wake can be an elite program. Apparently, Ron Wellman agrees.
Or so I thought.
When Dino was fired, we all had visions of Brad Stevens or someone similar dancing in our heads. Butler did a smart thing and signed him to a long contract (many confuse the concept of term with the concept of a buyout, but I’ll assume this extension takes him off the table, at least as far as Wake is concerned). Maybe we should change our mascot to the Stalking Horses?
Even with Brad apparently off the table, there are plenty of good prospects out there. Wake has a top 10 recruiting class signed. A high profile coach with a post season track record who promises an exciting offense and lots of fans in the seats and wins on the scoreboard could almost certainly convince all or most of the class to stay the course.
Just now, however, I read reports that Wake is just about to hire Colorado’s Jeff Bzdelik. Look, I don’t know Jeff and I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know anything about his coaching record or style other than what I have read. I mean absolutely no disrespect to Jeff, but college coaches are highly paid public figures, so this sort of analysis comes with the territory.
What I have read does not excite me. In the least.
Air Force? Fisher DeBerry is a life-long friend of mine, and I would have been stoked if Wake had hired Fisher to coach its football team (I actually begged Fisher to seek the job once). But basketball? NIT semi-final as a high-water mark? I do recall that Air Force beat Wake by something like 40 a few years ago. Maybe Jeff was the coach then, which I guess makes this a mathematical step-up. But seriously…
73-119 in the NBA?
This is probably coming off as harsh, and I mean no disrespect to Ron or Jeff. But this does not sound like the roadmap to putting WFU [back] on the college basketball map. Or the way to keep a top 10 recruiting class in the fold (not that the recruiting class should be a deciding factor).
I choose not to believe this will happen, until it happens.
If it does happen, it will be soul crushing. Almost as soul crushing as watching the inevitable (and understandable) futile efforts at putting a positive spin on it.
Surely Ron is just goofing on us, right?
This is not going to happen. Sometime in the next few days I’ll come back here and tell you I told you so.
Everyone remain calm.